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Sat, Apr 10, 2010

Polish President's Plane Down, 96 People Killed

President Lech Kaczynski, His Wife Both Lost

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, and 94 other people were killed Saturday morning when the TU-154 they were aboard went down on approach to Smolensk in western Russia in a thick fog. Officials said aircraft, which was the official Presidential plane, struck tree tops and broke apart about 1050 local time.

The accident has also killed Slawomir Skrzypek, the governor of Poland's Central Bank, Army Chief of Staff General Franciszek Gagor. and Deputy Foreign Minister Andrezej Kremer.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the delegation was traveling to Russia for an event recognizing the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. In 1940, the Soviet secret police executed thousands of Polish officers near Smolensk.

The TU-154 was reportedly at least 20 years old. Polish officials have reportedly been trying to replace the airplanes that are used for official travel for several years, but have lacked the funds to do so.

Kaczynski was elected President of Poland in 2005. He was 60. He had planned to seek re-election in balloting that was scheduled for this fall. In such a situation, Poland's speaker of the lower chamber of Parliament becomes the acting head of state.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation. Russia has appointed a special commission for that purpose led by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

FMI: www.poland.pl


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