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August 01, 2011

Russia Rejects Polish Report on Smolensk Plane Crash

A Russian investigation has dismissed a Polish report partially blaming Russian air traffic controllers for the 2010 crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people.

Alexei Morozov, chief of the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee panel that investigated the crash, said Tuesday the controllers had given the pilots precise guidance and that the airport's radar and lights were functioning normally.

Morozov blamed Polish air force chief Andrzej Blasik for going into the cockpit and putting pressure on the pilots to land in dangerous weather.  Morozov said the plane came in at a lower altitude than it should have, causing the crash.

The Polish report, issued last week, acknowledged serious errors on the part of the crew of the military plane but also blamed Russian air traffic controllers for giving incorrect instructions.  The report said it did not find there was any pressure on the pilots, and that Russian air traffic controllers told the pilots they were flying at the correct altitude.  

The Polish commission also stated that lighting was bad at the airstrip where the plane crashed in heavy fog near the Russian city of Smolensk.

Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich resigned last week after the Polish report was released.

President Kaczynski 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.


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