News / Europe

    Russia Observes Day of Mourning for Polish Air Disaster

    Two countries disagree on many issues, but Moscow's gestures of solidarity since crash could help improve relations

    Russia has declared a national day of mourning for the victims of Saturday's Polish air disaster.

    Russian flags are flying at half-staff in Moscow as the country mourns the 96 Poles killed Saturday in plane crash near Smolensk.

    People laid flowers and placed candles outside the Polish embassy in Moscow.

    Nikolai, a mourner, says it is a horrible situation.

    These are victims of misfortune and now there is grief and mourning.  He says it is hard to talk about it, just horrible. No one is [immune] from this, as history has shown, not simple citizens not a president of any country, no one is [immune] from such accidents.

    Ties between Russia and Poland have been strained.  The two countries disagree on several issues, including missile defense and gas pipelines.  But, many analysts say Moscow's many gestures of solidarity since the crash, could help relations between the two countries gradually improve.

    Mourner Tatiana agrees.

    She says we just lived through a tragedy and we understand everything as well as anyone.  If this somehow brings our countries closer together, as they say, 'If there is no fortune then let misfortune help' then so be it.

    The mayor of Moscow has made his own good-will gesture to the families of the crash victims, who are arriving in Moscow to try to identify the bodies of their loved ones.

    Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is promising the city's full support.  He says that psychological care, hotel rooms and translation services will be available to the families.

    Russian officials say they have identified at least two-dozen victims, but some of the bodies were so damaged that investigators may have to rely on DNA evidence to identify them.

    Meanwhile, in a televised meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia's top investigator says that after analyzing all the flight data from Saturday's Tupolev jet crash, officials have determined that there were no technical difficulties with the aircraft.

    Alexander Bastrykin says recordings of the Polish pilot and air traffic control indicate the pilot was told not to land due to the thick fog in the region, but did so anyway.  Russian officials are pointing to pilot error.

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