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Poland Marks 10 Years Since Smolensk Plane Crash Killed Top Officials in Russia

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The head of the Polish Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, lays a wreath at a monument to his late twin brother, former President Lech Kaczynski, on Pilsudski Square in Warsaw on April 10.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, Poland's ruling conservative government has held scaled-back commemorations marking the 10th anniversary of a plane crash in Russia that killed then-Polish President Lech Kaczynski and other high-ranking officials.

Only a small group of senior officials, including Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late president and head of the conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, attended the wreath-laying ceremony at the Warsaw monument at the exact moment that the plane crashed on April 10, 2010, in the western Russian city of Smolensk.

Poland Marks 10 Years Since Smolensk Plane Crash Killed Top Officials in Russia
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Many Poles, including top members of PiS, question the results of the official investigation conducted by the previous centrist government of Donald Tusk, which found that the Tu-154 military plane crashed in heavy fog at an airport near Smolensk due to human error and bad weather.

Poles also criticize Russia’s handling of the investigation, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski suspects his brother was assassinated, probably by the Russians.

"After 10 years, it's difficult to say anything or predict whether the case can ever be resolved," said President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the PiS.

"We don't have basic evidence; the wreckage is still in Russia; the black boxes are still in Russia," he said in Krakow after visiting Kaczynski's grave in the Wawel Cathedral.

Poland's Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note to the Russian Embassy in Warsaw calling on Moscow to return the crash wreckage.

"No norm of international law gives grounds for Russia’s retention of Poland’s property," the ministry said.

Poland has made similar demands in the past, but Russia says it is keeping the plane wreckage because of an ongoing investigation.

Russian authorities said on April 10 that there was no evidence of an explosion causing the crash.

The tragedy has strained relations with Russia, all the more so because the plane had been traveling to commemorate a World War II massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters
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