In a striking announcement Wednesday, a Polish government committee suggested that traces of explosives have been found on the wreckage of a Polish plane that crashed in 2010. As the committee put it, “much damage to the left wing of the TU 154M plane carried traces of an explosion”, Washington Examiner reports.
But this flight wasn’t just any flight. As it crashed on approach to landing in Smolensk, Russia, the plane was carrying Poland’s government and armed forces elite. The passengers included then-President Lech Kaczynski, eighteen members of the parliament, the commanding generals of all three branches of the armed forces, a former president, and the head of Poland’s national bank.
While earlier investigations suggested pilot error and poor visibility caused the crash, these latest allegations pertain to a new investigation opened in 2015.
This investigative committee was set up by the ruling Law and Justice party, chaired by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the brother of the late president who had died in the crash. The surviving Kaczynski has long been convinced that a conspiracy was behind his brother’s death, and some believe the new investigation exists to create facts to support his thesis.
Still, I’m not so sure we should deride the investigation so quickly. After all, last December, the committee investigators retained explosive analysis experts from the British military. Those experts are highly professional and well-insulated from Polish domestic politics. And if they found the explosives residue that the committee now claims to have recovered, that residue is real.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the residue necessarily came from an explosion that brought down the plane, but it does demand our attention.
There are serious questions about what happened that April day in 2010. For one, Russia has been reliably uncooperative with Polish investigators since the day the crash occurred. Along with other elements crucial to the investigation, Russia continues to hold the wreckage on its soil. Moreover, reports suggest that Russia may have manipulated the flight data recordings. And this wouldn’t be the only flight the Russians have downed in recent years. Put simply, the latest allegations do not exist in a vacuum.
Poland is an important U.S. ally. If the committee’s allegations are true, or might be true, President Trump should pledge any and all support for Poland’s investigation.
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