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Poland: Initial Reactions to Russian Report on Polish Air Force One Plane Crash

The Interstate Aviation Committee‘s report on the crash of TU-154M airplane near Smolensk on April 10, 2010, has generated an outburst of strong opinions about the validity and objectivity of the document, as well as the effect it might have on the Polish politics in 2011 (here is the IAC's report in Polish, in Russian, and in English). Most discussions in various social media are highly negative of the document's content, but gradually bloggers are beginning to elaborate on the topic.

The author of Kozi Dryngiel blog [PL] provides a really insightful analysis of the April 10 flight and landing conditions, pointing out some still unclear elements:

A detailed analysis of the “new” material published by IAC would take time. However, already now, after the first glimpse at the video reconstruction of the Polish plane's flight over the Russian territory, which is attached to the report, serious questions and concerns arise.

The new IAC report maintains the version that blames the Poles. It mentions the wrong decision to land in conditions that were not safe enough to approach the airport. It mentions crew activities that imply lack of experience and skills to maneuver the Tu-154M. It states that the crew reduced the altitude too quickly while approaching the airport, which made the maneuvering difficult. It also mentions pressure on the pilots exercised by their superiors, which was supposed to cause psychological tension and increase the stress level in this already difficult situation. […]

As we pointed out earlier (here i here) – the information provided by the controller to the crew was not detailed enough – […] the plane was further from the landing spot and higher than it was assumed from the tower's reports. […]

IAC also states that the accident was caused by the pressure exercised on the crew by the passengers, which cannot be directly proven. It has to be mentioned here that the fact that the controller provided mistaken information about the distance and height of the plane could have been a more crucial factor of the crash than the assumption about the superiors’ pressure. […]

Azrael Kubacki presents his views [PL] on the political context of this report:

The report on the Moscovian IAC, said to be international, de facto Russian, strongly embedded in the Kremlin's commission, did not surprise anyone who followed all the publicly available information and materials. Followed and analysed rationally, without reference to conspiracy theories, assassination, thermal bombs, interference of the plane equipment, or even using another plane and kidnapping the passengers. It does come as a surprise to those who assumed that the Russians would remain neutral and admit their own mistakes. Let's state this here and now – mistakes that were not the major factor of the crash of Tu-154M, but mistakes that allowed the Polish crew to fly straight down onto the swampy forest.

After listing all the mistakes that the Poles made, Kubacki continues [PL]:

All this does not allow the Polish side to stop questioning whether the Russians, their airport staff and the airport itself were ready to welcome the Polish plane. It looks like the Russian ban on the landing, closing down the airport before the arrival of the Polish plane, could have prevented the catastrophe. They did not do so, as their three controllers were also exposed to similar pressure as the Polish pilots. Just that they could pass the blame on to the Polish crew of Tu-154M – who could not do much about it but try to land. It is obvious that they are to blame for the crash – but can the Poles pass the blame on them? Not really?

Later on, Kubacki continues with the political context of this report [PL]:

The Smolensk case will dominate the political discourse and will remain the main topic of political games before the autumn elections – for Law and Justice party [PiS] and Jarosław Kaczyński for sure. Discussions and accusations will sharpen and polarise the Polish political life even more to the state in which only [PO] and PiS will matter. It's really bad for the Polish politics […], but it will last until the Polish commission's report of minister Jerzy Miller and until the investigation of the Polish prosecution do not end. This will not happen before the autumn elections.

As one of the commentators pointed out, the IAC report has opened a new chapter in the Polish-Polish war, this time under the Russian flag…

Rusofil publishes two blog posts. In his first one on the topic, he mentions this [PL]:

IAC has published the report on the crash of the Polish President's plane near Smolensk. For me its content comes as no surprise. It describes everything that took place during the flight and the reasons of the crash. Of course, it provoked a wave of disagreement in Poland, but I do not understand why. Only one fact is pointing to the Polish pilots causing the catastrophe. It is the lack of reaction to the command PULL UP. […]

The report raises a lot of questions and doubts, it also gives scope to many theories. This is its major fault, which also proves lack of communication between the Polish and the Russian sides. Discussions, disagreements and arguments will last for a while yet.

In his second post Rusofil continues [PL]:

Why does the IAC report not contain the remarks of the Polish side? It is an interesting question, which does not have a clear explanation. The statement that the Russians do not want to take the blame has its grounds, but I would like to point out that IAC is an independent international organisation, regardless of whether we like it or not.  Of course, I do not exclude the possibility of pressure on the committee, but I doubt it was the Kremlin. I would rather see the army's input there. […]

The question arises, why then did the Kremlin not put pressure on IAC in order to prevent international scandal? In my opinion they tried to, but failed. The endless power of the Kremlin and Prime Minister Putin is a myth propagated by Moscow and willingly copied by the Western media. In reality, the new fight for power begins, and the Smolensk plane crash case has became a part of it. It is worth mentioning, though, that from Moscow's point of view it is a secondary factor. In Poland, however, the noise around the report will give birth to political arguments (hopefully, not social ones), and gradually weaken the country. And this, sadly, is also somewhat beneficial for Moscow. […]

Some, like K. from Maccaroni blog [PL], see the report as shameful for Poland:

How should I put it… Regardless of the attempts to save the good name of the airport crew, the report is hitting us hard. […]

Another blogger, ndb2010, has more radical views [PL] :

To summarise initially: the report contains verbal accusations about pressure, but the factual bits related to the found parts, which we currently have access to, is so absurd that I cannot believe that Russians could publish this thing.

It's a pity that the Western press reports only on the Russian version.

The report is disgusting. Nothing new, basically the rule of the [Chicago Convention] has been broken, as it states that one cannot blame any parties, nor write a report which in any way affects individuals personally.

It contains a lot of untrue information. They feel they cannot be punished. They want to scare us.

The blog of the Catholic Radio Maryja posts speculations [PL]:

The report of IAC on causes of the Smolensk crash would make Radio Maryja happy under one condition. It would be enough if the Russians admitted conducting an assassination of the Polish plane, together with the government of Tusk. This did not happen, however, so the reaction of Father Rydzyk was predictable.

Kazimierz Maciejewski is very upset [PL]:

Well, yesterday I thought I could use this report as toilet paper, today I know I won't, as I would not spare my lower back for this rag.

Komandos1948 has different views, though, posted on his blog [PL]:

Blaming the Russians is embarrassing, to say the least. The pilot is to decide when and how to land (this time under pressure). We should rather stop with the IAC report, otherwise we will learn that we need to move the Kaczynski couple from Wawel to a less public place to rest, as they will be blamed for the death of many people. Because no president would ever allow so many high officials (the elite of Poland, one might say) to sit on one plane, travelling to such an important event. I openly put the responsibility for the crash on the shoulders of President Lech Kaczyński and his cabinet.

Andrzej Matys looks into the future of the Polish politics [PL]:

We can expect stormy discussion with tearing the clothes and judging each other's dignity and faith, since the IAC report on the Smolensk crash is a great prologue to the autumn elections. […] It is difficult to predict what the Prime Minister and the government will do now. Maybe it would have been wiser to announce a joint committee just after the crash? Maybe the government should keep us more up to date on the issue and its doubts related to the report? Maybe we should have expected more information and explanations from the Russians. Finally, maybe the Prime Minister should have returned earlier from his skiing holiday? His absence on Wednesday looked bad on him, as anyone could comment on the report but the head of the government. And, sooner or later, someone will use it to blame him. More so that the long-awaited by everyone (and one day late) analysis contained in the report did not work well for him. To put it nicely.

Marucha summarises it all [PL]:

We are free to believe what we want, but we will never know the truth. […] That is our only certainty.

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