By Rafal Malec
Polish prosecutors announced they will be pressing charges against two Russian air traffic controllers for deliberately causing a plane crash which killed Poland’s president and 95 others in 2010.
The crash, which killed a government delegation travelling to the west Russian city of Smolensk to attend a commemorative service in honour of Polish officers killed by the NKVD, has been a high-profile bone of contention between the two countries.
While an inquiry carried out by the previous government determined that pilot error was to blame for the tragedy, the currently ruling Law and Justice party, led by the twin brother of the killed president, maintains the crash was caused by an act of sabotage.
The prosecutors justify their charges with a new analysis of a recording of the conversation between the plane’s pilots and the control tower:
‘’An analysis of the evidence… has allowed prosecutors to formulate new charges against air traffic controllers, citizens of the Russian Federation,’’ Polish deputy prosecutor general Marek Pasionek told reporters.
Kremlin spokesman, Dimitry Peskov said circumstances of the crash have been investigated thoroughly, and ‘’it is certainly not possible to agree with such conclusions.’’
Citing its own ongoing investigation, Russia has so far refused to return the wreckage of the plane to Poland, causing speculations regarding the country’s involvement in the disaster.
With these accusations, the Polish prosecution – controversially hand-picked by the ruling party – is likely to worsen the already tense relations between the two countries.
The crash was the worst incident of this kind in Poland since World War Two, and left society deeply divided over its potential causes.
The crash took place as pilots attempted to land the well-used, Soviet-made TU-154 in heavy fog, pressured by senior officials present on the flight to arrive at the destination by a specific time.