Polish President Dead in Plane Crash

Tragedy has struck Poland as it lost its president and several other high-ranking officials in a plane crash in Russia. President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria were among 97 people killed when the presidential plane crashed as it was trying to land amid thick fog near Russia’s North Smolensk airport. The Polish officials, who included the military chief of staff and several lawmakers, were, ironically, scheduled to attend the 70th anniversary of the Katyn forest massacre–one of the most tragic periods in Poland’s history.

Initial investigation shows that the crash was an accident and there seems to be no indication of foul play. An official of the Smolensk regional government said the Tupolev presidential aircraft was advised to land either in Minsk, Belarus, or in Moscow, but the pilot apparently did not heed the advice. Russian Air Force Gen. Alexander Alyoshin said the pilot decided to land in Smolensk despite the thick fog.

Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said the accident was so “hard to believe. You get chills down your spine.” Another former President, Lech Walesa, said the accident “is a great tragedy, a great shock to us all.”