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April 10, 2011

Presidents of Poland, Russia, Commemorate Crash Anniversary

The presidents of Russia and Poland have paid their respects to the victims of the plane crash that killed former Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

In a poignant ceremony commemorating the one-year anniversary of the crash Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Poland's Bronislaw Komorowski met in Smolensk, near the site where the Polish government plane crashed in heavy fog on April 10, 2010.   The two presidents laid wreaths at the site of the crash.

The Polish president and his delegation were on their way to commemorate the 1940 massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers in Russia's Katyn forest when the plane went down.

Mr. Komorowski's visit has been overshadowed by a controversy over a plaque laid by relatives of those who died in the air crash that referred to the Katyn killings as genocide.  The plaque, which had been written in Polish, was replaced by a dual-language marker which removed references to the 1940 massacre.   

For years Moscow had blamed the 1940 killings on Nazi Germany.  Last month, the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, recognized the 1940  massacre as a crime ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.  Poland welcomed the move.

After their talks, Mr. Medvedev said it was time to look to the future without forgetting the past, adding that Russia is ready to strengthen its partnership with Poland.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.