What news don’t we get to know in Poland?

Together with the Katyn 2010 Families’ Association Prof. Ryszard Legutko, MEP, organised a public hearing The Investigation of the Smolensk Plane Crash 10.04.2010 - A Matter for EU Institutions? in the European Parliament. The main aim of the meeting was to inform the European public opinion about the present course of the investigation of the plane crash at Smolensk and to reflect on the possible instruments that the European Union can use to help Poland get to know the causes of this crash. The families of the victims, including Marta Kaczynska-Dubieniecka who had lost both parents in the plane crash, high- ranking officials representing all EU institutions, MEPs, representatives of the Polish public prosecutor’s office, Mr Antoni Macierewicz, the head of the parliamentary group investigating the crash of the governmental plane Tu-154 as well as aviation experts, were invited. Unfortunately, the important representatives of the EU institutions, including the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, who had not even delegated one of his 14 deputies, did not come. It seems that when the EU wants to have closer relationships with Russia, when the EU has common political and economic interests with Russia, many leaders of the European institutions find the subject of the Smolensk plane crash simply uncomfortable.

Prof. Ryszard Legutko
Former Minister of National Education in the government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, now an MEP of the Law and Justice Party.

One of the direct effects of the plane crash was the initiative to collect signatures by the Katyn 2010 Families’ Association, under the appeal for an international investigation. In a short time over 300,000 signatures were gathered, which resulted from common disappointment of Poles concerning the investigation. The European public opinion was mislead by many items of ‘information’ that were published just after the crash and were not denied or did not reach the Europeans’ awareness. Taking this into consideration and the fact that on 10 April many important politicians of European dimension lost their lives, we acknowledge that we are obliged to present our opinions on the European forum and direct questions to many people, including the President of the European Parliament Prof. Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Baroness Catherine Ashton, about what they did to explain this plane crash.

Marta Kaczynska-Dubieniecka
Daughter of the tragically deceased Polish Presidential Couple

The meeting with the representatives of the US authorities was called ‘treason’ by the government of the Republic of Poland. It cannot be excluded that this meeting will be presented in the same way. Thus Prime Minister Tusk would stand in the same row with Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz who refused to collaborate with the US Senate in the 1950s because he did not want to spoil the relationships with the brotherly Soviet nation.
The Polish government decided to let the Russians conduct the investigation on the basis of the Chicago convention, not considering the possibility of applying the Polish-Russian agreement of 1993, which regulates the procedures in similar cases. There were no security services at the airport. Just after the plane crash the Polish services did not arrive at the site of the crash and did not secure the wreck, which was factually exterritorial, beyond Russian territorial jurisdiction. The Russians have not passed the documents concerning the airport, either. We do not even know the exact time of the plane crash. The site of the crash was not secured; on the contrary other people had access to it. The documentary showing the destruction of the wreck was shocking because this action makes a detailed investigation into the causes of the crash impossible. In this case the wreck cut into pieces remained in the open air, which caused its further destruction. And at the same time the Polish government is looking for a place where the wreck should be transferred so that a museum can be created.
The Polish publish opinion was informed convincingly that the Polish medical specialists participated in the autopsies but as it turned out they had participated only in the autopsy of the President’s remains. The air traffic controllers’ depositions were cancelled. The controllers testified that they allowed the plane to land after having talked to some undefined person in Moscow and during the landing there was another person in the control tower about whom nothing more is known. Moreover, it has not been explained what the Russian military aircraft Il-76, which was supposed to make unsuccessful attempts to land at Smolensk that day, was doing there. We do not know the registered conversations of the control tower, which are key facts to establish the causes of the plane crash.
The report of the Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) has existed for a few months but it has not been revealed to the public. Poland is known to be preparing an appeal against the report but it is not know why.
Today I am here to appeal to treat this tragedy differently that the Katyn Massacre that happened 70 years ago. This matter should be honestly explained, among others with the participation of European institutions.

Zuzanna Kurtyka
Wife of Janusz Kurtyka, the Head of the Institute of National Remembrance

My husband was flying to Katyn to manifest the importance of giving the lie to Poland’s history. For many years we were forbidden to speak about this crime, committed at the command of the highest Russian authorities. At first, we were ordered to be silent because of the common interests of the allies and then because of Russia’s interest.
It was only in September 2010 during my visit to Russia that I learnt that the visits of two delegations to Katyn had been decided in a restaurant during the talks between Minister Tomasz Arabski from the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and the Russians. I was with Minister Ewa Kopacz and Minister Arabski himself. They tried to convince us that the Polish authorities were doing their best to establish thoroughly the causes of the plane crash; that they would not leave Russia until the remains of our relatives returned to Poland. However, all these assurances turned out to be lies. We had to found an association to defend our rights and the government informed us only through the media. The government began lying to us that the flight was of civilian character although the delegation consisting of the most important people in the state was aboard a military aircraft. The media, politicised or dependent on the government, suggested from the beginning that the Polish President forced landing. Lie! General Blasik was in the cockpit. Lie! Minister Kazana was in the cockpit. Lie! All the remains of the victims were carefully examined. Lie! Many remains were burnt as unknown. We have not been apologised for these and other lies. At the same time, after the journalists of ‘Gazeta Polska’ discovered that the credit card of Andrzej Przewoznik had been missing and then used several hours after the crash, the governmental spokesman Pawel Gras apologised the Russians for slander. Thus new standards were established – apology to a thief for accusations. We were forbidden to copy open documents. We were forbidden to open the coffins of our relatives, which was unlawfully. Russia does not intend to return the wreck and it was only covered by tarpaulin. Anyone can have access to the wreck. However, the biggest shock I experienced during my visit to Smolensk was the fact that the plane had crashed sideways on the runway. How could the air traffic controllers have assured the pilots that the plane was on the right landing path?
We appealed to the Prime Minister for establishing an international commission to investigate into the causes of the crash. He refused to do it, stating that he saw no problems.

Marta Kochanowska
Daughter of Janusz Kochanowski, the Ombudsman

I am addressing you as the founder of the Foundation ’10 April 2010.’ The investigation is important not only to us, families, but it will influence the history of our country. The tragic event of 10 April 2010 did not only deprive us of our relatives but also of the President and First Lady, nine generals, Vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, 12 MPs, the President of the National Bank, the Ombudsman, the President of the Institute of National Remembrance and many other people, meritorious for the country and society.
One could think that such an important investigation will be based on correctly selected legal grounds. From the first moments of our stay at the site of the crash on 12 April we were assured that Poland would get full access to the investigation materials. Prime Minister Putin himself assured us of that. However, our government did not use this offer and today is trying to convince us that such an offer was not given at all. Consequently, we have limited access to the documents of the investigation. But this convention is applied only to civilian flights (Article 3) and it is not known why it has become the legal basis of this investigation at all. The investigation should have been based on the bilateral agreement between Russia and Poland, signed in 1993.
Why didn’t the government order to have the remains examined in Poland where the victims could have received due respect? Why haven’t the black boxes been given to us? Poland has the right to demand all these things but it has not done that. How can we regard the investigation to be conducted impartially considering that the interests of the parties deciding about the legal basis are in conflict? It was the government that co-organised the visit and consequently, it should not have been the co-ordinator of the investigation.
During the bomb attempts in London anything that resembled human remains was identified by the DNA examination. But it was not done in this case. Nobody undertook any activities to ensure the families that they buried the remains of their relatives. The team of archaeologists that went to the site of the crash several months later found over 5,000 human remains. How can this process be regarded as lawful as the government assures us?
The system for transmitting information is very chaotic. And incorrect information influences the very investigation and allows for its manipulation. The world press was convinced that the crash had been caused by the pilot’s error, that the pilots did not speak Russian. The latter is not true and the former has been proved in no way. If nothing has been explained how can one throw such a accusation against the man who cannot defend himself?
In the process of reconciliation with the death of one’s dearest people it is supposedly important that families should receive the things that belonged to the dead. I say ‘supposedly’ because nobody returned these things to us. It is only one of the cases of complete lack of empathy, which occurred during this investigation.
I want to present a formal motion to the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Europe requesting an assurance that the investigation will involve all the highest legal standards and that the rights of the European citizens, who are the families of the victims of the Smolensk crash, are protected.

Antoni Macierewicz
The head of the parliamentary group for the investigation of the Smolensk plane crash

Eight months have passed since the biggest plane crash in the world history happened. It has never been the case that the whole state management was annihilated in one moment and it happened during a period of peace. Our presence here is not to replace our appeal to the Polish authorities. At first, we submitted 330,000 signatures to the Speaker of the Polish Parliament Grzegorz Schetyna, then to Prime Minister Donald Tusk and then to President Bronislaw Komorowski. No responses except Prime Minister Tusk’s refusal to take any actions.
It was in the first minutes after the plane crash that we faced a perfectly prepared action of disintegration from the Russian state media. No theses about the pressure of President Kaczynski, of General Blasik, etc., have been confirmed but at the same time they are repeated by many MEPs, in the Canadian Parliament or the US Congress. Those who invented the information do not try to sustain it in direct confrontation but it is still a comfortable tool of disinformation in the relationships with the third states. In their first depositions the Russian air traffic controllers admitted that the airport in Smolensk was military and military procedures were obligatory there and that only a controller could allow a plane to land.
On 1 September 2009 President Kaczynski, in the presence of Chancellor Angela Merker and Prime Minister Putin, stated that the Katyn massacre was an act of genocide that never outdated and would never outdate in the Polish memory. It was then that the decision to have two separate visits to Katyn in April 2010 was taken and to focus all efforts on the visit of Prime Minister Tusk. It had huge consequences because the visit of President Kaczynski did not receive due care.
How could it have happened that the Polish security services did not visit the Smolensk airport before the visit of the Polish President? They were not there during the landing. All security procedures were neglected. There was no another plane for the Polish President although there was such a plane for journalists. The ‘spare’ plane for journalists was used because the first plane broke down and the journalists had to be taken aboard another plane. But the water escape from the Tupolev aircraft, which was to take President Kaczynski, did not arouse any suspicions and even the pilots were not informed about it.
Our group does not formulate any definite conclusions about the causes of the crash but it points to clear violations. For example, commencing from the tenth kilometre before the runway Tu-154 was not on the landing path even for one moment. It was 75 m sideways and 800 m too close. The reason was that the pilot of the presidential plane might have been given completely different cards than the ones delivered to the pilot of the plane carrying the Prime Minister. They were certainly less detailed and did not contain the location of the runway. Comparing the satellite pictures of the site of the crash with the one before it and after it one can also see that it is not true that the plane turned over before hitting the ground – the picture shows furrows made by the undercarriage. It is not final evidence but only a premise. But in Poland nobody works to show this evidence to the public opinion.
Moreover, we do not know what happened during these 16 minutes after the crash. Since the sirens were switched on at 8:56 a.m. to begin the rescue action but according to Minister Sasin who was in Smolensk there was no rescue action even for half an hour after the crash.
On 29 April 2010 Prime Minister Tusk announced that the Russians had forced the choice of procedure. When Edmund Klich was going from Deblin to Warsaw he had a phone call from the Russian Colonel Morozov who told him that it would be best to adopt the Chicago Convention as the legal basis, and Edmund Klich accepted that. This was the origin of the choice of the legal basis of the investigation.
Since 2 December 2010 the UE 996/2010 regulation has been binding. It says that the investigation into the causes of some crash cannot be conducted by the same institution that deals with certifications concerning aircrafts and airports. And MAK, with its head General Anodina, is such an institution.

Geoffrey Van Orden
British politician, MEP

When several dozen army men lost their lives in the military helicopter flying from Northern Ireland to Scotland and crashed in bad weather, a special commission stated after eight months that it was the pilot’s fault. The pilot’s family was not satisfied with the verdict and took efforts to clear him of charges. The present British Minister of Defence promised to renew the investigation. His attitude and the attitude of the pilot’s family suggest and one must never give up searching for the truth.
The experiences of the investigation of Lockerbie also suggest some conclusions. Over 1,000 policemen and soldiers combed out carefully the site of the plane crash. Over 200,000 pieces of evidence were collected and this large area was guarded for 11 months. The investigation was conducted jointly by the Americans and the British because the aircraft and most of the victims came from the U.S.A. The Americans had full access to the investigation.
These examples do not constitute a direct parallel but give essential indications. The Polish investigating officers should have full access to the investigation and some people from the third countries should be also involved. The European institutions should also join the investigation into the causes of the plane crash.

Vytautas Landsbergis
Former Lithuanian chief of state. A Lithuanian MEP.

The European institutions should be involved in the explanation of the causes of the plane crash. To Marta Kochanowska, ‘You have thrown light on the legal swindles in this case very well – If I were you I would guard myself against a car crash.’

One of the aviation experts

The pilots received wrong information. The plane crash happened as the result of mistakes in directing the plane to the runway. The pilots were convinced that the runway was 800 m closer than it really was. MAK suggested that the landing speed of the aircraft was ca. 185 km/h, which is much below the minimal plane speed (254 km/h). The stenographic records say that the autopilot was switched off at the height of ca. 10 m above the ground, which is impossible: switching off the autopilot at the height below 20 m results in the plane’s immediate hitting the ground.
The crew must have been mislead at all stages: the air controllers’ directions, GPS and the NDB system.

Prof. Ryszard Legutko

We are disillusioned with the role of the media since many items of information, which we have received today, should be known from the media. The investigation itself is being conducted in such a way that infringes all rules. Although it is very sad to hear bitter statements concerning one’s own government, we know well that our government is not interested in explaining this matter in a thorough way. What next? Let us do our best to find allies who enable us to explain the matter completely. The more people’s demands the harder it will be for the government to neglect them.

The material was gathered by Tomasz Piotr Poreba

"Niedziela" 52/2010

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl