>– Polish-Canadians Gather at Ottawa Embassy, Accuse Moscow of Engineering Disaster to Wipe Out Polish Government
– Aircraft with 200 Journalists Landed Safely after President Kaczynski’s Plane Crashes
On Sunday Alexander Bastrykin, head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, reported to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that the “black boxes” on board the Polish Air Force jet that crashed near Smolensk yesterday confirm the Tupolev Tu-154 was “technically sound.” On board the plane was Poland’s rigtist, pro-Western President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, numerous legislators, and nearly all of Poland’s top generals and admirals. All crew and passengers perished.
“The pilot was informed about complex weather conditions and, nevertheless, made a decision on landing,” Bastrykin explained. The Soviet-built Polish jet clipped the tops of trees and crashed as it attempted to make another pass at the airport at fog-shrouded Smolensk. Thus, by the Kremlin’s tacit admission, we are left with pilot error or sabotage to explain the “decapitation” of Poland’s political-military leadership over Russian territory, en route to a memorial observance of the Katyn massacre in 1940. Expect the Kremlin media, therfore, to play up the “pilot error” dimension in the weeks ahead.
For decades, Soviet authorities refused to confess to the killings of 22,000 Polish military officers, even after the death of Joseph Stalin, who approved a suggestion by his secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria to execute the Poles. It was not until 1990 that then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev acknowledged that the Soviets, not the Nazis, were responsible for the massacre, which was carried out by Beria’s henchmen, then known as the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD).
On Sunday both Putin and the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, who was in Warsaw at the time of the crash, travelled to the site of the downed Tupolev in the Katyn Forest to pay their respects to the victims. Putin and Tusk are pictured above. They are accompanied by Russia’s civil defense czar, Sergei Shoigu, on Putin’s left. Russia’s defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov appears to be walking somewhat behind on Tusk’s right. Kaczynski’s body was flown to Warsaw today.
At the Polish embassy in Ottawa Polish-Canadians express their suspicion that somehow the Russian government was behind the near-total demise of its Polish counterpart. Canadian journalist Earl McRae visited the embassy where he interviewed a Polish emigree and the ambassador himself:
Witold Szalankiewicz does not have to be diplomatic. And isn’t. He’s 54, a massage therapist. He came to Ottawa from Poland in 1989. Standing on the steps of the embassy, he says: “I am very suspicious. You talk to a lot of people coming here today, they will tell you the same thing. You can’t trust the Russians. Polish people hate the Russians. They suppressed us for over 200 years. There isn’t a person in Poland who hasn’t had a victim in their family of Russian suppression.”
Why, I ask, would Russia want to engineer the crash.
“To destroy the elite of the country that believes in the democracy we’ve become. Here was a way to get everybody in one place at once. It’s interesting that a plane full of 200 journalists landed with no problem shortly before the plane crash.
“The Russians hate us. Poland stands up to Russia. They can’t control us anymore. Russia was furious with Poland when it became the only European country to take in Chechen refugees. Poland blocks Russian EU proposals. Russia was furious when Poland joined NATO in 1999.
“No one knows the mind of Russians like the Polish people. Did you know that Putin’s grandfather was once Stalin’s chef? Putin himself was head of the KGB branch in East Germany.”
Intriguingly, Poland’s ambassador to Canada, Zenon Kosiniak-Kamysz, who was posted to Ottawa in January, made the following remark, which effectively rules out “pilot error” in the demise of President Kaczynski’s plane: “I will not speculate. But, I knew those pilots personally. They were very experienced and qualified.” Thus, with the addition of this information, we are left with the conclusion that sabotage or another hostile act was behind this disaster.
Not so coincidentally, US military personnel are on site at Morag, Poland, installing a Patriot anti-missile battery only 70 kilometers from Poland’s border with Kaliningrad, Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave. State-run Voice of Russia articulates the Kremlin’s professed scepticism concerning Washington’s claim that the Patriots are targeting Iranian ballistic missiles:
Who the Patriots are going to protect and against whom is unclear. Poland is surrounded by NATO allies on three sides. Finland is close but it maintains neutrality. The only option for the missiles is to point east, in the direction of Russia. Something is definitely wrong when they declare that the missiles in question are not directed against Russia.
Voice of Russia warns that the US missile deployment in Warsaw Pact-turned-NATO state “undermines” trust between Moscow and Washington, especially in view of the new strategic arms reduction treaty inked in Prague last week.