Smolensk crash investigation extremely difficult - justice minister

Ziobro told Polsat News television on Friday that gathering the necessary evidence is very difficult. Marcin Obara/PAP

The investigation of the tragic presidential plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, is entering its twelfth year.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has said that the investigation is extremely complicated and difficult, among others, due to various actions on the part of Russia, where the accident took place, and where the plane's wreckage remains.

The Russian Investigative Committee has so far been saying 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.

On April 10, 2010, the Tu-154M aircraft with a top-level Polish delegation, en route for ceremonies which were to mark the 70th anniversary of the WWII Katyn massacre, crashed near Smolensk. In the crash, 96 people were killed, including then President of Poland Lech Kaczynski and his wife, as well as dozens of senior government and military officials.

Ziobro told Polsat News television on Friday that gathering the necessary evidence is very difficult. He pointed, among others, to such elements as "criminal charges and requests for the detention and temporary arrest of flight controllers, issued by the Polish prosecution."

An investigative team of the Polish National Prosecutor's Office has filed to a Warsaw court for the temporary arrest of Russian air traffic controllers who were on duty at the time when the Polish presidential plane crashed in Smolensk.

The move was the first step towards the issuance of an international arrest warrant. Despite multiple appeals to Russian authorities for help in interrogating and charging suspects, no assistance has been forthcoming from Moscow so far.

The National Prosecutor's Office has decided to prolong the investigation until December 31, 2021. According to the office, investigators have obtained new information which may help explain the causes of the crash.

The Prosecutor's Office has told PAP that the experts of an international team of experts from Poland, Portugal, Denmark and Switzerland have issued preliminary opinions on the causes of deaths and the mechanisms that caused injuries identified during repeated autopsies.