Poland Seeks The Arrest Of Russian Air Traffic Controllers For Crashing Their Plane

Poland is seeking to arrest Russian Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) for the 2010 crash at the Smolensk-Severny airport that killed the Polish President Lech Kaczynski along with 95 other officials. 

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Polish prosecutors alleged that the Russian air traffic controllers “had anticipated that a catastrophe might occur” before giving a conditional clearance for landing to the pilots.

A Polish court has issued temporary detention of the three flight controllers who were on duty on April 10, 2010, said a local media report. The report said that this is the first step to issuing an international arrest warrant. 

Earlier, the prosecutor’s office decided to change the charges against the Russian controllers from accidentally causing a catastrophe to taking deliberate action, reported PolandIn.

President Andrzej Duda and many Poles suspect that the crash was not caused by pilot error, but by foul play, as an official investigation by Poland’s previous centrist government concluded. “After 10 years, it’s difficult to say anything or predict whether the case can ever be resolved,” Duda said in Krakow after visiting Kaczynski’s grave on the 10th Anniversary of the crash.

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President Lech Kaczynski and the First Lady Maria Kaczynska along with 94 were flying in the Polish Air Force Tu-154M to an event commemorating the 1940 Katyn massacre of more than 20,000 Poles by Soviet forces.

The plane crashed as it was trying to land at Smolensk in western Russia on 10 April, killing dozens of senior officials. In an investigation, a preliminary finding confirmed that the crew were repeatedly warned about the poor weather.

Alexei Morozov, head of the technical commission examining the crash, said air traffic controllers had warned twice that visibility was 400m (1,312ft) and that “there were no conditions for landing,” reported BBC.

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Then, four minutes before the crash, another Polish plane that had landed earlier that morning said visibility had dropped to 200m, he said. BBC reported that Morozov also said the crew of eight on board the plane that crashed had been formed several days before the flight and “did not undergo regular simulated training, including the practice of co-ordination and emergency situations during flights”.

However, the president’s twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, insisted that Russian foul play. In 2017, Polish Defence Minister, Antoni Macierewicz, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of the crash.

He said the Russian president “should have the courage to take responsibility for what has happened,” in a radio interview. “President Putin should finally face the truth: two explosions which eventually destroyed the Tu-154 were incontestably identified by official expertise.”

Putin denied the allegations and said it was time for Poland to move beyond the plane crash, turn a new page, and “grow up”. The investigation set up by the previous Polish government concluded that pilot error was to blame for the crash.

However, Law and Justice (PiS) party ordered a new investigation which concluded in 2017 that the plane was brought down by explosions on board, stated an Independent report.