7 Mar. — A special sub-committee of the Polish National Defence Ministry formed for reinvestigating the Smolensk catastrophe began its work. In April 2010, the country’s highest echelon leaders were killed in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia. Among the victims was then-president Lech Kaczyński, brother of Jarosław Kaczyński, who is the current leader of the ruling Law and Justice party. The goal of the new commission is to re-analyse the events of the disaster and determine the reasons for the tragedy.
It February of this year, Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz ordered the investigation completed in 2011 to be reopened as soon as possible. At that time, the governmental commission headed by then Interior Minister Jerzy Miller stated that the presidential airplane should not have flown from Warsaw at all in such weather conditions, much less land in Smolensk.
The new commission has 21 members. The majority of them have already worked with Macierewicz in a different oppositional parliamentary group headed by him which conducted a parallel investigation of the catastrophe. In the opinion of the Polish Defence Minister, the results of the previous investigation are dubious. “Over the past weeks I have had the opportunity to familiarise myself with the results [work] of the commission. Key facts and information have been kept hidden,” he stated.
The head of the new commission is Waclaw Berczynski, a design engineer and DScTech who has previously worked with Boeing and NASA. His principled position is that an internal explosion caused the airplane to crash. Similar views are held by the vice-chairmen of the commission, Professor Kazimierz Nowaczyk and Dr. Bogdan Gajewski, who are closely tied to American and Canadian research centres. Also participating in the investigation are four foreign experts including Andrey Illarionov, a former advisor to the Russian president.
The commission’s new members have already directed a number of harsh statements at their predecessors. In the opinion of Berczynski, “Miller’s commission had substantially more materials than it used in its final report.” Professor Nowaczyk declared that the previous investigators worked in an unprofessional manner and only observed the activities of their Russian colleagues. “Part of the commission’s photographs were made without any preparation… These were snapshots more likely made with a toy than a camera… Miller’s commission did not conduct its own investigation of the disaster scene, … did not undertake the actions obviously required for this type of disaster,” said the expert.
Meanwhile, it is difficult to say that either the investigation’s renewal or the harsh words were unexpected. Even before returning to power in November of last year, the politicians of Law and Justice repeatedly made bold statements. Antoni Macierewicz said that after the Smolensk catastrophe Poland is in a state of war with Russia. “Even if the next attack is postponed for one, two or five years,” he added in 2012.
Thus, when the oppositional politicians returned to power at the end of last year bearing such an attitude, their perspectives could not help but influence political decisions. “The Smolensk ideology has become the ideology of the state,” noted observer Pawel Wronski of Gazeta Wyborcza on air on TOK FM.
However, the head of the commission denied its work was politically motivated. “I am myself apolitical. I do not belong to Law and Justice. I don’t know if anyone else in this group is a member of the party. This is a team of experts who want to figure out what happened… The initial conclusions on this disaster were so unconvincing… that I felt obliged to speak out,” stated Waclaw Berczynski.