Polish delegation in Smoleńsk continues Tu-154M wreckage examination

SERGEI CHIRIKOV/PAP/EPA

Polish prosecutors and forensic technicians are conducting procedural steps on examination of the TU-154M presidential plane that crashed in Smoleńsk, Russia, on April 10, 2010, with the loss of 96 lives, the Russian Investigative Committee has announced.

This is the 13th visit of Polish representatives of the prosecutor's office to Smoleńsk. The TU-154M presidential plane wreckage remains in Russia, stored in a hangar at a military airport in Smoleńsk. Poland has repeatedly asked for it to be returned, but the Russian authorities claim it is impossible due to its material evidence status in the ongoing investigation in Russia.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation announced on Wednesday that it had accepted Poland's motion regarding another examination of the plane wreckage kept in Smoleńsk, and added that it will be carried out "in the presence of Polish representatives."

The National Public Prosecutor's Office announced at the beginning of May that another visit of Polish prosecutors to Smoleńsk is the result of requests for mutual legal assistance, sent to the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office by the Polish investigative team.

The prosecutor's office asked, among others, for an additional inspection of structural elements of the aircraft.

On April 10, 2010, President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, the last President of Poland in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski and dozens of senior government officials and military commanders were killed in the air disaster near Smoleńsk, western Russia. The delegation was on its way to Katyń to attend events marking the 70th anniversary of the 1940 Katyń Massacre, during which close to 22,000 Polish POWs were murdered at the hands of the Soviets.

The Smoleńsk investigation was initially conducted by military prosecutors in Warsaw. They charged two Smoleńsk flight controllers and two Polish officers of the 36th regiment responsible for flying top state officials and operating the Tupolev plane.

In 2016, a new investigative team from the National Public Prosecutor's Office took over the probe.

The Russians are running their own investigation. They have repeatedly stressed that before its completion they would not return the Tu-154 wreckage and its 'black boxes.'