Poland to review travel rules after deadly air crash


poland president - flight routePoland’s acting president is to review travel rules for military officials after the president and army generals were killed in a plane crash.

Bronislaw Komorowski made the announcement as Poland started a week of mourning for the 96 people killed in Saturday’s crash in western Russia.

Russia is observing its own day of mourning on Monday.

President Lech Kaczynski’s body is to lie in state in Warsaw until a state funeral, which is set for Saturday.

Officials say a final decision depends on when all the bodies are repatriated.

The body of the president’s wife, Maria Kaczynska, has been identified and is to return home on Tuesday.

There is no precedent for a dual funeral involving a head of state and his first lady, but a spokesman for the president’s office said a joint funeral would be held once the bodies of all those killed had been repatriated.

Election plans

Russian and Polish officials are still working to identify many of the victims from the crash in Smolensk, which happened when a Polish government plane carrying leaders from across national public life crashed in thick fog.

Poland’s chief prosecutor, Andrzej Seremet, said that the remains of 87 people had been found so far; he hoped the rest would be retrieved when salvagers were able to lift the crash debris with heavy machinery.

Those killed had been due to attend a memorial for the Polish victims of a World War II massacre by Soviet secret police at Katyn in the Smolensk region.

Poland has moved to fill some of the gaps left by the disaster, appointing an acting head of the central bank, while the presidential post has been filled by Mr Komorowski, the parliamentary speaker, pending a new election.

“The first task I am going to set for the new National Security Bureau (BBN) chief is a review of the rules for travel of top military officials,” said Mr Komorowski on Monday.

The head of the BBN was among those who died in Saturday’s crash.

Mr Komorowski also said he would call for early elections within 14 days, in line with the constitution. The vote must be held within another 60 days.

With a swathe cut through Poland’s top military leaders, their first deputies have taken over any immediate duties, meaning that the country’s armed forces are operating normally.

At the central bank, the late Slawomir Skrzypek was replaced temporarily by his deputy, Piotr Wiesiolek.

Commentators in Poland have stressed the irony that so many senior figures were killed making a visit to commemorate victims of a massacre which targeted the elite of Poland’s officer corps.

“This is so very much like Katyn, where our head was cut off,” said former President Lech Walesa.

Signs of reconciliation

The pavement in front of President Kaczynski’s palace in central Warsaw is now covered with thousands of small glass pots containing candles laid as a mark of respect.

Mr Kaczynski’s body was brought back from Russia on Sunday. It was driven through crowd-lined streets to the palace, where it will lie in state from Tuesday.

Russian investigators suspect pilot error caused Saturday’s crash, in which there were no survivors.

They say the pilots were warned they were flying too low just before the plane clipped tree-tops in heavy fog, as it was coming in to land at an air base.

Russia’s deputy prime minister, Sergey Ivanov, said an examination of the flight data recorders had confirmed the aircraft’s crew had been advised to land at another airfield due to poor weather conditions in Smolensk.

Recordings of conversations between the pilots and air traffic controllers had revealed no technical problems with the plane, added Russia’s chief investigator, Alexander Bastrykin.

Some 130 Polish relatives of those killed have been arriving in Moscow to identify remains. So far, 17 bodies have been identified, but Russian officials said DNA tests would be needed to confirm the identity of most of the crash victims.

Russia is marking a day of mourning, with flags flying at half mast and television channels cancelling all entertainment programmes as relatives arrive in Moscow to try to identify the bodies.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had flown to Smolensk just hours after the crash and sought to console his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk.

Moscow’s handling of the tragedy has won some admiration in Poland.

Witold Waszczykowski, deputy head of Poland’s National Security Bureau and one of the few Kaczynski aides not to have been on the flight, said: “We did not expect this gentle, kind approach, this personal involvement from Putin.

“Naturally it will have a positive impact on the relationship between our countries.” BBC



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