Plane crash kills Polish President Lech Kaczynski
Poland is reeling after Saturday's plane crash that killed 96 people, including the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski.
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A plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country's top political and military leaders crashed into tree tops as it tried to land in poor conditions in western Russia Saturday morning, killing everyone on board. Among the dead were President Kaczynski, his wife, and a delegation that was traveling to an event marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.
An official in the region said dispatchers asked the pilots to divert from the military airport because of fog, but the pilots ignored the instruction and crashed. A total of 96 people were killed.
"We could not have conceived a more horrible, poignant, tragic occurrence," said Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, "than our president, going to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the murder of 20 thousand Polish officers at Katyn, himself dying with his wife."
President Obama telephoned Poland's prime minister to express his condolences, and released a statement expressing the strong support of the American people for Poland.
"Today’s loss is devastating to Poland, to the United States, and to the world. President Kaczynski was a distinguished statesman who played a key role in the Solidarity movement, and he was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity. With him were many of Poland’s most distinguished civilian and military leaders who have helped to shape Poland’s inspiring democratic transformation. We join all the people of Poland in mourning their passing."
According to Poland’s constitution, the leader of the lower house of parliament has 14 days to announce new elections.
Andrew Nagorski, who spent most of his career covering Poland as the Moscow/Poland Bureau Chief for "Newsweek," says the tragedy may lead to better understanding between Poland and Russia.
"The very dignified way in which the Russian government has dealt with this tragedy and acknowledged what happened at Katyn and everything that it sparked -- ironically it's meant that maybe, this tragedy will finally create a joint consciousness of what happened and allow both countries to move on."
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