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Russian diplomat slams Poland’s criticism for keeping fragments of crashed plane

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz, who accused Moscow of not respecting "principles of the civilized world" by refusing to hand over to Poland fragments of late President Lech Kaczynski’s plane

MOSCOW, July 21. /TASS/. Poland’s claims that Russia was indefinitely keeping fragments of the Polish presidential plane that crashed in Russia in 2010 are baseless, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote in her Telegram channel on Tuesday.

In the post, Zakharova mentioned Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz, who accused Moscow of not respecting "principles of the civilized world" by refusing to hand over to Poland fragments of late President Lech Kaczynski’s plane.

"Russia’s Foreign Ministry and other relevant governmental agencies have repeatedly said that physical evidence must remain on the territory of the Russian Federation until investigative actions, including those carried out in connection with more and more requests coming from the Polish side, are completed, and until a final procedural decision is made," she said.

"Concerning Warsaw officials’ references to the international law, which, in their opinion, does not allow Russia to store physical evidence on its territory while at the same time providing access to it by Polish investigators, they are baseless. Claims about Russia’s indefinite retention of the plane’s fragments are unsubstantiated," the spokeswoman continued.

The Russian diplomat went on to say that Poland was notified about the evidence handover procedure on many occasions.

"In accordance with the international practice of air disaster investigations, physical evidence, including the aircraft’s fragments, are handed over only after investigative procedures are completed. In our case, [the investigation] is ongoing. In this regard, Poland’s attempts to make references to the international law in its bid to have the wreckage of the presidential Tu-154 plane returned to Poland are absolutely groundless," she said.

She reiterated that Moscow has repeatedly confirmed its readiness to grant access to the plane’s fragments to Polish investigators on the Russian territory. Also, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office requested Warsaw’s assistance in the investigation, including by providing a transcript and a the recording of the conversation that took place between President Lech Kaczynski with his brother Jaroslaw ahead of the crash.

"We haven’t received any answer yet. We expect those materials to help shed more light on circumstances of the tragedy that happened on April 10, 2010," she said.

On April 10, 2010, a high-ranking official Polish delegation flew onboard of a TU-154M government plane to Smolensk from where they were supposed to go to Katyn, a village near the Russian city of Smolensk, to attend the commemorations of the Katyn massacre - a mass execution of Polish officers in the Katyn forest in 1940. The pilots decided to land the plane in conditions of bad visibility and the absence of visual contact with the ground. The plane touched tree tops and then hit the ground. It fell several meters short of the runway at the Smolensk-Severnyi airfield. All the 96 people onboard, including representatives of Polish bodies of state power, military structures and public organizations, died in the crash. Among them were then President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria. Criminal investigations are continuing in Poland and Russia.

The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) experts concluded that the crash happened as a result of the actions of crew, who had made the wrong decision to land under difficult weather conditions and under psychological pressure. The Polish governmental commission also named the crew’s mistakes among the causes of the crash, as well as the fact that the pilot ignored the TAWS (Terrain awareness and warning system) signals to prevent unintentional impact with the ground.

Earlier, Polish prosecutors postponed the deadline for concluding the investigation to December 31, 2021.