News / Europe

Polish President, 96 Others Killed in Plane Crash

Russian officials say Polish President Lech Kaczynski has died in a plane crash in western Russia.

Russian news agencies say that 60-year-old President Lech Kaczynski was killed when the Tupolev TU 154 went down as it approached an airport near Smolensk.

Witnesses say the plane crashed into trees near the airport and then, broke into several pieces before catching on fire. The exact cause of the crash is under investigation.

Among the passengers confirmed on the flight were Mr. Kaczynski's wife Maria, Poland's army chief, deputy foreign minister, central bank governor and scores of Polish legislators.  The Smolensk regional governor said there were no survivors.

The Polish delegation was headed to the western Russian town of Smolensk to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the World War II-era killing of 22,000 Polish officers by Soviet security forces at the town of Katyn near Smolensk.

Mr. Kaczynski was elected president of Poland in 2005. A year later, he spoke of his plans to make Poland an integral part of the European Union.

He said we must build a properly functioning country, without corruption. A country helpful toward its citizens, to build an independent Poland within the European Union.

Residents in Poland expressed shock at the news of Mr. Kaczynski's death.  Hundreds of people gathered outside the presidential palace in Warsaw to pay tribute to the president.

Adrianna Parowska says she, like the others who gathered at the presidential palace, is in shock. We are here to be together, she says, to console each other. It's a great shock because the elite of our nation went there to remember the dead from 70 years ago and right now Poland is really in trouble.

The speaker of the lower chamber of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski, is expected to take Mr. Kaczynski's duties.

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