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Polish Lawmakers Meet to Honor Dead Leaders

Poland's parliament met in special session Tuesday to honor President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, Maria, and other high-ranking Polish officials killed in a plane crash Saturday in western Russia.

Somber tones in the Polish parliament as lawmakers and invited guests filed in for a special session to commemorate those killed in Saturday's plane crash.

Speaker of Parliament Bronislaw Komorowski led the proceedings and invited representatives from the political parties to read out the names of the 18 lawmakers, who were among the victims.

Speaking with VOA, lawmaker Eugenuisz Klopotek was visibly shaken. Klopotek says it is still hard to believe this happened. But he says one small good thing has been to see people from all walks of life and political persuasions come together to mourn, to unite. He is hoping the politicians take heed and work for unity instead of focusing on divisions.

Nearly 100 people were killed when the presidential plane crashed during its attempt to land in dense fog Saturday near the western Russian town of Smolensk. Among the dead were President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, some of the country's top military officials as well as lawmakers and prominent cultural and religious figures.

They had been on their way to Katyn in western Russia for a ceremony to commemorate the murder of more than 20,000 Polish military officers and others by the Soviet secret police in World War II.

Poles have come out by the thousands to mourn the recent deaths. In Warsaw they have lined up in front of the Presidential Palace where the bodies of the president and first lady lie in state, they have put flowers and candles in front of the Palace, they have filled churches for memorial services, and they are now preparing for a state funeral.

Meanwhile, the government continues to function under Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Parliament Speaker Komorowski, who, as mandated by the Constitution, has taken over as interim president. New elections are to be held by mid June.