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Relations with Russia cannot improve without Smolensk wreck hand over

Polish-Russian relations cannot improve if Poland does not get back the presidential plane that crashed in Russia in 2010, Poland’s Foreign Minister said following the Russian President’s roundup of 2016. “Without the return of the [Presidential plane] and cooperation in finding the causes of the Smolensk catastrophe it is impossible to imagine an improvement in Polish-Russian relations,” Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said on Friday.

In April 2010, a Polish presidential plane crashed while trying to land in fog in Smolensk, western Russia, killing then-President Lech Kaczyński and the 95 others on board.

Despite requests, the wreckage of the plane and its black boxes have not been handed over to Poland.

Meanwhile, Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has launched its own investigation into the disaster.

PiS has long challenged an official report into the crash issued by the previous Polish 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.

On Friday morning, in an annual conference summing up the year, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the disaster “a tragedy”, and added that Russia had “done everything” to determine its causes.

Putin said that handing over the plane wreck to Poland is not possible as investigators still need it.

But Poland’s Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said the Russian investigation was “no reason” to keep the wreck.

He added that the Russian probe is being carried out in accordance with the Chicago convention on international civil aviation, under which Moscow must return Poland its property.

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