Polish Leader & 95 Others Dead in Russia Plane Crash …Update: Airport Was Closed Before Landing Attempt

The leader of Poland and 95 other top officials were killed in a plane crash this morning en route to a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and up to 131 others traveling with him to commemorate the mass killing of Polish officers during World War Two died on Saturday when his plane crashed on landing in western Russia. (Pravda)

Russia’s Ria Novosti reported that up to 131 were killed in the crash in Western Russia.
Russia Today has video:

The AP reported:

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country’s highest military and civilian leaders died on Saturday when the presidential plane crashed as it came in for a landing in thick fog in western Russia, killing 96, officials said.

Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the 26-year-old Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.

The crash devastated the upper echelons of Poland’s political and military establishments. On board were the army chief of staff, national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said.

Although initial signs pointed to an accident with no indication of foul play, the death of a Polish president and much of the Polish state and defense establishment in Russia en route to commemorating one of the saddest events in Poland’s long, complicated history with Russia, was laden with tragic irony.

Astute Bloggers has more on the crash.

UPDATE: The Airport was closed — Pilot made multiple landing attempts.
The Guradian reported:

The pilot was told Smolensk airport was closed because of thick fog, according to the news agency Interfax. He was offered a choice of landing instead at either Moscow or Minsk, the capital of Belarus, but decided to continue with the original flight plan to Smolensk.

The pilot made three unsuccessful attempts to land before the crash. On the fourth try the plane fell apart, Interfax said, citing officials at Smolensk’s interior ministry.

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