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13 Apr, 2010 08:07

Katyn tragedies mourned

The official ceremony scheduled to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre has been cancelled. This is due to the recent tragic death of the Polish president, whose plane crashed on the way to the site.

People from both Poland and Russian have been coming to what is now the site of two tragedies – the Katyn Massacre and the plane crash, which took the lives of the Polish president and other members of the country’s political elite. Visitors lay flowers and light candles to pay tribute to the 96 people who perished on their way to the site.

Katyn was due to witness a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre where thousands of Polish officers were killed by the Soviet secret police.

However, due to the tragic events of the past weekend, it has been cancelled.

Katyn has been the major stumbling block in Russia-Poland relations for a long time.

“It resulted in a very big division between the countries,” historian Sergey Kudryashov from Rodina magazine told RT. “After the investigation into the Katyn crime, Stalin broke all the relations with the Polish government. He even decided to create his own pro-Soviet government in Poland.”

It took the Soviet Union nearly half a century to finally acknowledge in 1990 that the NKVD secret police was responsible for the mass murder.

Russia has also acknowledged the role it played in the incident. A week ago Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to Katyn with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk to lay flowers on the mass grave, which was a major step towards reconciliation over the painful issue.

Investigation outlined

On Tuesday, Russian authorities outlined the investigation behind the plane crash. Examination of the recorded data from black boxes and search at the site of the accident will be finished by the end of this week and DNA testing will take until April 21.

According to preliminary data, the Polish president’s plane hit the trees due to heavy fog.

“Preliminary analysis of the flight data recorders has shown that there was no fire or explosion on the plane, engines were operational until the moment of collision… Synchronization of work of data recorders continues, as well as identification of sounds and noises. This task requires time and will continue approximately until the end of the week,” explained deputy prime minister Sergey Ivanov.

“Examination of the site will require three to four more days, because many fragments are deep in the ground,” stated Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the investigative committee.

The interstate air committee has pledged to define the trajectory of the Tu-154’s flight path of presidential on April 13.

“Today the work on defining the last stage of the flight will be finished and transportation of the plane’s fragments will begin,” said Tatyana Anodina, head of the committee.

Polish prosecutor Zbigniew Rzepa, who is studying the flight records together with Russian colleagues told a Polish TV channel TVN24 that transcribing may be finished on Wednesday or Thursday. “The self-recording devices are a little bit damaged, but only from the outside.” Inside, the tapes are intact.

Polish general military prosecutor Krzysztof Parulski praised highly the organization of the investigation in Russia and said that Moscow is helping Warsaw even more than international agreements provide.

Half of the victims of the tragedy have been identified, claimed Tatyana Golikova, Minister of Public Health and Social Development. “Forty-eight casualties have been identified, at the same time death certificates are being given out,” she said.

For identification of some of the bodies DNA testing is necessary, and Russian authorities promise to conduct it as fast as possible. “We informed the Polish party that the maximum term for DNA testing may continue until the middle of next week,” Golikova added.

Parts of the plane were being removed on Tuesday from the crash site near Smolensk. One of the wings has been completely removed already, according to a spokesperson of Smolensk region, reports Itar-Tass.

The wife of Lech Kaczynski, Maria, was identified yesterday by her ring with her name on it.

Yesterday, investigators on the ground said that they are still finding body parts on the crash site.

All the bodies have been transferred to Moscow for forensic examination with both Russians and Poles identifying the bodies. As soon as they are all identified they will be sent to Poland for burial.