We do not agree to such treatment

Wieslawa Lewandowska

In Poland nobody expected that the Russians would publish the final report of the Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) on the causes of the Smolensk plane crash so quickly. The whole Polish government, which had stressed so firmly the excellent Polish-Russian collaboration concerning this matter, was surprised. The Polish experts were astonished and surprised, especially the accredited officer at MAK Edmund Klich, who had participated in the works of the committee and who had not been invited for the solemn press conference announced for 12 January 2011 only several hours earlier. The astonishment was lined by the anxiety about the contents of the report, whether the Russians managed to make amendments accordingly to the Polish requests in such a short time. Only one month earlier (16 December 2010) the Poles, asked to make their observations to the preliminary version of the report, had sent their reservations written on 150 pages of script to Moscow and at the same time demanding additional investigation activities (e.g. to question the air traffic controllers of the Smolensk control tower again). The anxiety turned out to be justified: the Polish demands were ignored; only the less important ones were included. Therefore, the Russians ignored the statement of the Polish Prime Minister uttered in December 2010 that the MAK report without the corrections proposed by the Polish experts was ‘absolutely unacceptable.’ The Prime Minister must have been sure of his success and kindness of the Russians because when he learnt about the conference he did not decide to break his holiday in the Dolomites and did it only after some reflections – the opposition made some accusation – only because his absence would have been badly interpreted by the Polish public opinion.

Poland is a small country

The final MAK report confirms the opinions expressed by the Russians during the very first minutes after the crash: the Polish pilots, who did not take a decision to fly to the alternate airport ‘although they were informed many times and in time about the real weather conditions at the Smolensk-Siewiernyj airport, which were much worse than the minimum defined for this airport,’ were responsible for the crash. The report does not contain any documentation and critical analyses of the technical drawbacks, abandonment and negligence by the Russians since – as it was said with conviction during the conference in Moscow – it did not influence the course of the events. Presenting the report, the head of MAK Mrs Tatiana Anodina kept repeating and stressing the main thesis that the wrong decisions of the Polish pilots were caused by the psychological pressure of the important people on board. ‘According to the psychologists specialising in aviation matters,’ Anodina kept convincing the audience, ‘the presence of the commander of Air Forces in the cockpit exerted psychological pressure on the captain’s decision to continue laydown in the conditions of unjustified risk with the prevailing aim to land ‘at all costs.’ Despite the fact that the investigation focused only on technical matters, which the chairman of the MAK technical committee Alesiej Morozov stressed, one could have the impression during the conference in Moscow that the subject of the investigation was mainly the psychological aspects referred only to the crew and passengers of the Polish aircraft. There was no analysis of the similar situation in the air traffic control tower, which – as shown from the registered conversations – could have been even more stressful; the Russian air traffic controller was instructed by some unknown general… Perhaps those instructions led to the crash…
The accredited officer Edmund Klich speaks about the report regrettably, that his main remarks concerning the evaluation of the controllers’ activities and possible pressure exerted on them were not included in the report and actually were ignored. Klich is eager to share his bitter feelings on the collaboration with MAK and Mrs Anodina who was to tell him on the occasion of one of the controversial talks, ‘Russia is big and Poland is a small country…’
Tatiana Anodina stressed with satisfaction – one could have such impression – the evidence of the psychological pressure on the pilots and also the fact that there was a small amount of alcohol in the blood of General Blasik. The chairman of the Polish state commission for the investigation of the crash, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Jerzy Miller comments on that, ‘It was not said what methods were used to establish this amount of alcohol. It is known that the biochemical processes after someone’s death can cause that the analysis conducted by suitable techniques can show alcohol in the blood, which does not mean that the person drank alcohol before his death. And moreover, we speak about such an amount of alcohol that is allowed for drivers in many European countries.

Collaboration unprecedentedly unprecedented

Mrs Anodina proudly used the word ‘unprecedented’ to describe the collaboration with the Polish officials. The context showed that she meant the enormous generosity and kindness of the Russians towards the Poles. Therefore, the unprecedented things included: giving a copy of the registered parameters from the black boxes, allowing the Polish prosecutors to conduct their own investigation by giving them documents and finally, the presentation of the last minutes of the flight during the conference… ‘An unprecedented number of Polish experts participated in the investigation of the Smolensk plane crash by the Interstate Aviation Committee,’ the President of MAK stated. But we know that the situation was different. And it is not only the opinion of the Polish opposition but of the Polish government, uttered a month ago, the government that had put too much confidence in the Russians. Many concrete technical questions concerning the safety of the flight asked by the Polish experts were not answered.
The document including the Polish remarks to the MAK report shows that the Russians did not give the Polish commission the important data about the controller’s work at the Smolensk airport and did not give the technical details concerning the airport. Among other things the Polish experts were not allowed to talk to all people who were at the command post of the Smolensk airport on 10 April 2010, especially the assistant to the air traffic commander, the controller and the one described as ‘the main commander.’ Thus it is not known who was in the tower just before the crash and why so many people were there. Naturally, it was not revealed what influence the decisions of those responsible in Moscow might have been considering the fact that Tu-154 was not directed to some alternate airport and the conditional landing permit ‘in the meteorological conditions in which landing was practically impossible.’ Mrs Anodina responds to all such questions, ‘These circumstances had no influence on the crash, which would have happened anyhow…’
The head of the technical committee Aleksiej Morozov informed that only ca. 20-25 % of all Polish remarks to the Russian report was taken into account (the Polish experts claim that the percentage was smaller) because the remaining ones did not refer to the technical aspects but to the issue of responsibility for the crash, which MAK was not dealing with. He ensured the gathered that those non-technical remarks would be sent to other organs for analysis.
‘If MAK dealt only with technical facts why the report included the grounds and even psychological expertises (including the analysis that Captain Protasiuk was prone to other people’s influences); why the report included journalistic references to ‘the Georgian flight’ of President Lech Kaczynski,’ the Polish commentators ask.
The Polish commentators also predict that the Russian prosecutor’s office gains grounds for discontinuation of the trial concerning any Russian responsibility on the basis of such a report.

Donald Tusk: There is no alternative for good relationships between Poland and Russia

During a press conference Prime Minister Donald Tusk admitted that the Russians had considered only some Polish remarks to the report. He ensured that Poland would address Russia to begin talks aiming at a common stand. He expressed his hope that it would be possible for both parties to reach the truth and not only an ordinary compromise. However, he did not exclude the necessity to address international institutions if we did not agree to a common stand with the Russians. He admitted that there were considerable violations of the Chicago convention during the works on the Russian report and Poland could prove them. The Prime Minister praised this convention as the legal basis adopted to explain the Smolensk crash although this decision of the Polish government was very much criticised. Tusk is convinced that only thanks to this convention further talks with the Russians and common stand leading to reach the truth are possible. Revealing the report the Russians stated that the possibilities of the convention were already used. ‘Now the only possibility is the arbitration, which has nothing to do with negotiations’, Jaroslaw Kaczynski says.
In his speech about the MAK report the Polish Prime Minister dedicated much time to the overriding matter of good Polish-Russian relationships. And he did not hesitate to add that the Smolensk crash paradoxically contributed to their improvement to some extent. He expressed his anxiety about too much political aspect of the whole affair. He stressed that we could not allow the situation in which any negligence could lead to disturbances in building good mutual relationships. ‘There is no alternative for good relationships between Poland and Russia’, said the Prime Minister adding that the relationships had to be based on the truth.
The Prime Minister declared that Poland would take her own part of responsibility for the crash and in his opinion the Russians should have the courage to present the whole picture. Donald Tusk also announced to publish the Polish report on the causes of the crash, which – what the chairman of the Polish commission Jerzy Miller had already stressed – could be even more bitter than the Russian one.

Jarosław Kaczynski: It is mockery of Poland

Commenting on the Moscow conference Jaroslaw Kaczynski said, ‘It is Erewan Radio!’ The Chairman of the Law and Justice Party evaluates the MAK report as the effect of the docility of the Polish government towards the Russians. In his opinion this document is a mockery at Poland and taking advantage of the attitude of Donald Tusk and the Polish government. The attitude that cannot be justified in any way.’
‘Anyone that has some knowledge about Russia and has some common sense could have predicted this situation. Therefore, entrusting this matter to the Russians and making no efforts, no struggle to involve the Polish or international experts, was a scandalous decision,’ said Jaroslaw Kaczynski on 12 January. In his opinion it was blaming ‘the Polish pilots and Poland for this crash in a completely one-sided way and actually without any evidence. […] We are dealing with a set of groundless speculations. Speculations that there was pressure, that some psychologists are to claim that such pressure existed although we have no evidence.’
Jaroslaw Kaczynski responded to the odd notice in the MAK report on the timidity of the Polish pilots, allegedly remembering the discontent of President Kaczynski during the flight to Georgia: there is no evidence at all that Lech Kaczynski exerted pressure on the crew. The pilot who ‘once refused to fly to Tbilisi with Lech Kaczynski aboard (during the conflict with Russia in 2008) ‘received a distinction for that.’
Kaczynski criticised the Interstate Aviation Committee itself, ‘MAK does not meet any standards of the institutions that could evaluate air crashes in an objective way. Such standards are defined by the EU regulation – The European Parliament and Commission – issued in the autumn of 2010. It clearly says that one commission cannot conduct verification procedures concerning aircrafts and airports and at the same time conduct investigations into the causes of crashes. MAK is doing both things at the same time.

We do not agree to such a treatment

‘The politics of Donald Tusk concerning the crash has been painfully unsuccessful,’ the chairman of PiS spoke during the second press conference on 13 January. ‘It is a very mild term; one could use more severe words… After the publication of the report Donald Tusk had the chance to change something in his attitude and do Poland a favour,’ Kaczynski says. ‘If he had reacted firmly yesterday this slander campaign against Poland, which was in today’s world press, would have been at least balanced with his statements. And many articles about ‘drunken general’ would have not been published at all…I think that many Prime Ministers from various countries could have dared to react that way. But Prime Minister Tusk did not use this chance, which could have been predicted… And neither did President Komorowski. And who but he should have spoken loudly enough to be noticed by the world media?...’
In his opinion to stop this slander campaign against Poland the Polish Parliament must pass a bill rejecting the MAK report at its special session. ‘It is more important today when the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov ‘dictated what should be said in Poland.’ Praising the achievements of MAK Lavrov expressed hope that ‘the course that was agreed upon during the visit of President Medvedev to Warsaw will be continued and the negotiated stand will be realised.’ ‘Today the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov made an astonishing declaration that shows once again that MAK is not an objective body at all, body that evaluates aviation crashes but it is simply an instrument of the Russian politics’, the Chairman of PiS stated. Presenting the core of the stand of his party during two press conferences Kaczynski stated, ‘We are rejecting this report as completely unreliable, commencing with the unreliability of the organ that conducted the investigation to the particular facts that are obviously unreliable and untrue. What next?
First of all, we must have what is the foundation, i.e. the declaration of the Polish Parliament, which I hope will be unanimous’, Jaroslaw Kaczynski answered. ‘But if we cannot reach unanimity we should have the explicit majority that will clearly declare that we do not agree to such treatment.’

The Smolensk families are united in sorrow again

Now the Smolensk families agree in their evaluations and like as no one else in Poland are sensitive to the thesis about the pilots’ responsibility, accepted just after the crash and so powerfully repeated by MAK.
The families of the victims are shocked that during the MAK conference the conversations from the cockpit were presented, especially the final fragment, the very moment of the crash. No wonder the pilots’ wives do not want to speak to journalists. ‘One must be heartless to make such recordings available for other people than the families,’ such an opinion about Mrs Tatiana Anodina is often repeated.

Beata Gosiewska: – It is perfidious but done in an extremely professional way, according to the KGB disinformation.

Andrzej Melak: – I am completely crushed and sad although I expected what the Russians said. The Polish government with Prime Minister Tusk together with the acting President Komorowski earned terribly hard for their evaluations. Entrusting the investigation to the Russians’ hands one could not have expected anything else!

Ewa Kochanowska: – The report repeats all the suggestions made just a few minutes after the crash. And I do hope that after nine months I will learn at last what was the exact time of the crash since one cannot learn even that…

Magdalena Merta: – For long there have been signals that they will want to blame the Polish pilots […] We have stressed many times that defending their good names is our aim and we treat it as our obligation. What struck me in the report was the complete lack of references to the role of the Russian air traffic controllers.

Ewa Blasik, wife of General Andrzej Blasik, was perhaps most personally moved and crushed. She felt obliged to make a statement to defend her husband because nobody from the Polish government did it. She spoke being greatly annoyed, ‘…that’s why I want to make a firm protest against the passiveness of the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The authorities of the Polish state failed in the matter of the Smolensk tragedy. But I count that Poles will not fail and will keep demanding to reveal the truth about the Smolensk crash.’

"Niedziela" 4/2011

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