President of Poland Killed in Plane Crash in Russia
On their way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, Polish President Lech Kaczynski and most of Poland’s highest ranking officials died when their 1960s-era Soviet TU-154 plane crashed. The plane attempted to land several times, but due to a combination of mechanical failure, heavy fog, and human error, the plane hit several trees and burst into flames. All 96 people on board the plane died, including Poland’s top military leadership. Under the Polish Constitution, the now acting president is the leader of the lower house, who must announce elections with the next 14 days.
The 1939 Katyn massacre was the secret execution conducted by the Soviet secret service of approximately 20,000 Polish officers who represented the intellectual elite of Poland during World War II. After the mass graves were found, the Soviets denied responsibility and blamed the massacre on the Germans, even going as far as to push that the charge to be included in the Nuremberg trials. The Nuremberg court never ruled on the Katyn massacre. Independent investigations by the Red Cross and other international bodies confirmed that the massacre was perpetrated by the Soviets.
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For more information in Polish about the crash, click here.