A plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczyński crashed nearby Smolensk airport in West Russia, Polish governmental official announced, quoted by Reuters. On board were also the Polish Central Bank governor Slawomir Skrzypek and the President's wife.
UPDATE 96 people were on board of the aircraft. 88 were part of the Polish official delegation, the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations announced, quoted by AFP.
President of the state Duma for international affairs Konstantin Kosaciov qualified the death of Polish President Kaczynsky as a huge tragedy for both the Polish and Russian nations, RIA Novosti reads. "Regardless of his political views and the political party he represented, we join the Polish people into mourning his passing", the Russian deputy added. He said that the main priority was to organise a rescue operations and a mission to clarify the circumstances of the tragedy.
The plane was on its route from Warsaw to Smolensk, carrying 87 persons on board. No one survived, according to the Russian news agencies quoting Moscow officials. The Polish delegation was on its way to Katyn to commemorate the assassination of thousand of Polish officers in the Second World War.
Russian air forces Commander Serghei Razygraev, second in command, declared that the Smolensk disaster doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the Severnyi airport. "I can't see how the quality of the airport could have influenced this incident", the General said in an interview for Eho Moskvy.
Smolensk administration press office told Gazeta.ru that the Polish President's aircraft tried three-four landing manoeuvres, before hitting the trees close to the landing runway. The plane crashed in the woods, 2 kilometres away from the airport. The control tower recommended the crew to land in Minsk, 200 km from Smolensk, but the crew decided to land in Smolensk.
The Polish Foreign Affairs Ministry declared that according to some preliminary data, the presidential plane hit the tree tops because if the fog, when trying to land on the military airport. A fire started on board, which has now been put out, ITAR-TASS reds.
The special investigation commission created by Dmitri Medvedev is headed by PM Vladimir Putin. Its spokesperson said the plane was carrying 132 persons on board.
Polish Foreign Affairs spokesperson Piotr Pszkowski confirmed that the plane was carrying the Polish President, his wife, the Polish army chief and the vice-Foreign Affairs minister. The plane was a Tupolev 154 and its capacity was 90 persons.
During the Russia - Georgia armed conflict, Polish President Lech Kaczyński made the Polish presidency website available to publish information from Georgian sources. He was one of the toughest European contesters of Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev.