A newly launched investigation into the 2010 plane crash that killed Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski has revealed evidence that the black boxes are missing recordings from the vital last seconds of the flight.
As reported by Bloomberg, investigators were appointed by Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who has said the crash that killed 96 people was probably an “assassination”. The jet crashed into a forest short of a runway in Smolensk, Russia.
Previous probes by both Poland and Russia, which pinned the blame for the accident mainly on pilot error, concealed facts such as engine and instrument failure as the plane approached the military airport in dense fog, experts appointed by Macierewicz said.
Six years after the tragedy, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling party and power behind the government, wants to “bring to justice” whoever is responsible for the death of his twin brother and other political leaders on the plane. With wider implications at stake including Poland’s relations with Russia, Macierewicz said last year that explosives probably caused the government jet to crash.
“There’s indisputable evidence that the truth has been hidden in previous probes,” Macierewicz told reporters in Warsaw on September 15. From the start, Polish investigators agreed to coordinate their findings with the Russians, instead of working independently to find out what happened, according to a presentation shown to reporters.
Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski in January said Russia had “something to hide” because it denied Poland access to evidence and refused to return the wreckage, which remains at the Smolensk airport near the Katyn forest, where Soviets killed thousands of Polish officers during World War II.
“There’s no question about manipulation, the part of the missing recording from the Polish black box was simply made complete by using the data from the Russian one to have a full picture of the flight,” Piotr Lipiec, a former member of the committee that probed the crash under Poland’s previous government, told TVN24 television on September 15.
The allegations by Polish officials are “beyond absurd,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow on September 15.
“The essence of these statements is that the Russian side was allegedly involved in organizing the crash of the Polish presidential plane,” Zakharova said. “Such irresponsible and provocative statements on the one hand reflect the domestic political situation, the very complicated realities in Poland, and on the other lead to a further undermining of the already difficult relations between our two countries.”
In a separate report, Radio Poland quoted Kazimierz Nowaczyk, deputy head of the commission appointed to investigate the crash, as saying that “three seconds were cut out from the Polish [black box] recordings, and five seconds from the Russian one.”
Nowaczyk added that the present commission was able to “decipher” five additional seconds of recordings.
“We have already found clues which show that the first engine had failed, the generator was malfunctioning, and the two radio altimeters were not in working order,” Nowaczyk said.
Earlier this week, the commission’s head, Wacław Berczyński, said that one of the discrepancies discovered by his team was related to the distance to the edge of the runway reported to the Polish crew by the Russian control tower.
“The difference is substantial and it could have affected the landing operation,” Berczyński told the TVP broadcaster. “The Tupolev crew was misinformed. We don’t know if it was intentional, though.”