Poland uses theories in plane crash probe - Russia

Russian rescuers inspect on April 11, 2010 the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft which crashed on April 10 near Smolensk airport (AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova)
Russian transportation minister, Igor Levitin, has strongly rejected the Polish report on Lech Kaczynski’s plane crash, saying that Russian flight controllers could not make decisions for the crew of an international flight.

­The Russian Minister spoke with journalists on Wednesday, the day after the flight control watchdog MAK, or Interstate Aviation Committee, told the press that it was the crew of the Polish president’s plane who had made unsuitable and untimely decisions before the aircraft crashed near Russia’s Smolensk in April 2010.The MAK’s statement was released in response to a report issued by a Polish investigative commission which laid some culpability for the crash on Russia. 

Minister Levitin called upon journalists not to sacrifice the truth in order to divvy out responsibility for the crash. 

“The Russian side was conducting the investigation into this terrible tragedy regarding the aircraft of the President of the Polish Republic in an absolutely open way, guided only by professionalism and rooted in facts, as opposed to interpretations or various hypotheses. In this investigation, there was no mention of any apportioning of blame or responsibility. Unfortunately, these things appeared in the papers that were presented by the Polish side on July 29,” the Russian minister said. “It is not possible to understand their points of emphasis, for the Polish experts possessed no greater access to factual information than their Russian colleagues, as provided by the standards of recommended practice regarding appendix 13 of the Chicago convention,” the Russian official added. 

Levitin stressed that it would have been impossible for Russian air traffic controllers to influence the decision to land, as the flight was an international one. “The air traffic controller was basing his decisions on this very fact. If he had actively interfered in the decision making process by the aircraft commander, he would have violated the norms of international practice that state it is the commander who is responsible for making the decision,” the official said.

Levitin also said that Russian experts were absolutely sure that the Polish crew was seeking to land in Smolensk-Severny at any cost. “The objective of the investigation must be fall into the sphere of objectively determining the cause of the crash so as to prevent such tragedies in the future, and Russia is doing everything to this end,” the Russian minister said. Levitin also said that the results of the investigation by the Interstate Aviation Committee had been duly passed on to the Investigative Committee – one of Russia’s top law enforcement bodies – but refused to comment on the Investigative Committee’s work, as it is a completely different agency.

The plane carrying a delegation of top Polish officials, including President Lech Kaczynski, crashed near the city of Smolensk in Western Russia, killing all 96 people on board. A subsequent investigation blamed the crash on the pilot error, mostly on the ill-considered decision to land in extremely poor weather conditions. The Polish side conducted their own investigation into the matter, subsequently releasing a report that lays the blame on the aircraft crew and the Russian side. The report has apparently led to the resignation of Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich, even though Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that the minister was not responsible for the Smolensk crash.