New monument unveiled as Poland marks eight years since air disaster

A new monument was unveiled in the Polish capital on Tuesday as the country marked eight years since an air crash that killed its president, a disaster that continues to trigger bitter debate.

The monument, resembling a stairway ascending into the sky and inscribed with the names of the 96 victims of the disaster, was unveiled in a central square in Warsaw, with the ceremony attended by top officials and Jarosław Kaczyński, head of Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

“Let us… pray that this monument unites us all,” said Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, the archbishop of Warsaw, during the ceremonies.

Tuesday marked exactly eight years since a Polish plane carrying Jarosław Kaczyński’s brother, President Lech Kaczyński, and 95 others – including top political and military figures – crashed near Smolensk, western Russia, killing all those on board.

Tuesday’s ceremonies in Warsaw also saw the unveiling of a foundation stone at a site where a separate monument commemorating the late President Lech Kaczyński is to be erected.

Reinvestigation in progress

The ruling conservative Law and Justice party has long challenged an official report into the 2010 crash issued by Poland’s previous government, which cited a catalogue of errors on the Polish side, while also pointing to errors made by Russian staff at the control tower of Smolensk Military Airport.

A Russian report placed all the blame on the Poles.

Law and Justice has launched its own inquiry into the crash which, in initial findings, suggested the plane was probably destroyed by a mid-air explosion, and that Russian air traffic controllers deliberately misled the Polish pilots about their location as the presidential plane approached the runway of the Smolensk military airport in 2010.

In mid-December last year, Poland’s defence minister at the time, Antoni Macierewicz, said that Russia was responsible for the plane crash. He also said that the Polish presidential plane, which crashed near the western Russian city of Smolensk, was destroyed by “two explosions.”

In January, the new team of investigators appointed by Macierewicz said that the jet’s left wing was destroyed as a result of an explosion on board.

The commission said that the explosion had “several sources” on the plane.

A document described as a technical report by the commission was expected to be presented on Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday evening, Jarosław Kaczyński was set to lead the 96th and, as he has said, the last monthly March of Remembrance for the crash victims through the Polish capital’s Old Town district following a memorial mass at the local St. John’s Cathedral.

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