Poland calls on Russia to return wreckage of government plane

To this day, the wreckage of the aircraft remains at the Smolensk North airport. Wojciech Pacewicz/PAP

The Foreign Ministry has forwarded a diplomatic note to the Russian embassy calling for the immediate return of the wreckage of the Polish government airplane that crashed in Smolensk, western Russia, ten years ago.

"No norm of international law gives grounds for Russia's holding of Poland's property," reads the ministry’s Friday post on Twitter.

On April 10, 2010, the Tu-154M aircraft with top level Polish delegation en route for ceremonies which were to mark the 70th anniversary of the WWII Katyn massacre crashed near Smolensk. All 96 people on board were killed, including President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, as well as many high-ranking state officials, MPs and military commanders.

To this day, the wreckage of the aircraft remains at the Smolensk North airport. The Polish authorities have repeatedly raised the issue of the plane’s return in talks with the Russian side. In May of last year, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz raised this topic at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

In September 2019, Minister Czaputowicz presenting Poland's position from the report on the implementation of last year's resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe assessed that Russia is not willing to submit to obligations arising from this resolution. He announced that Poland would raise this issue in the Council of Europe and "try to find a solution, which would be the return of the wreckage to the Polish side."

At that time, the minister assessed that the holding of the Tu-154M wreckage in Russia has no legal basis and there is no rational justification. He emphasised that Poland is ready to mediate with Russia in this matter directly or with the participation of a third party.

However, the Russian Investigative Committee has so far assured that its investigation into the disaster is still in progress and that the wreckage of the aircraft is material evidence and therefore cannot be returned to Poland.