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Tusk says ‘politically not responsible’ for 2010 visit that ended in tragedy

Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Monday told a court he was not responsible politically for planning a 2010 visit to western Russia that ended with the president’s plane crashing, killing 96 people aboard.

Tusk, now a top European Union official, was Poland’s prime minister at the time of the crash near Smolensk, which killed then-President Lech Kaczyński and dozens of top military and political figures.

Tusk, who is president of the European Council and chairs summits of EU leaders, was summoned to testify as a witness on Monday in a trial in which the former head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Tomasz Arabski, and four other officials, are accused of failings over the way the presidential flight was organised.

Tusk told a hearing in Warsaw that “it is not the prime minister’s area of responsibility to deal with the logistics side” of foreign visits by a Polish head of government or head of state.

“Politically, I was not responsible” for planning Lech Kaczyński’s visit to Russia on April 10, 2010, Tusk told a Warsaw court.

Ewa Kochanowska, the widow of Poland’s rights ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski, who died in the 2010 plane crash, told journalists: “It is very sad to see how no one is answerable for anything.”

In a separate inquiry, Tusk, who was prime minister of Poland from 2007 to 2014, was in August last year questioned by prosecutors in Warsaw probing mistakes in autopsies of the crash victims.

A crowd of supporters and opponents met Tusk before that hearing in Warsaw, much as before his hearing earlier last year as a witness in a spying probe.

The government in Warsaw last year opposed Tusk’s successful bid to secure a second term as president of the European Council.

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