In a grisly announcement from the Polish government today it was revealed that body parts from other people were found in the casket containing former President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a mysterious plane crash in 2010 over Russia.
The government also announced that several other caskets contained body parts of up to 7 people, calling into question the effort by the Russians to properly identify remains following the crash.
The former centrist government of Poland conducted its own investigation into the crash and determined that the cause was pilot error. But today’s government headed by Kacynzki’s twin brother Jaroslaw has rejected the investigation, believing it was flawed. Many in Poland, distrustful of Russia, believe an explosion caused the aircraft to go down.
Poland’s current government under the Law and Justice (PiS) party, led by Lech Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw, took direct control of the prosecutors office and moved to re-examine the Smolensk crash after coming to power in late 2015, saying the previous investigation was not conducted properly.
Deputy Prosecutor General Marek Pasionek told reporters that in 12 of 24 coffins reopened since last year, bodies had been swapped in two, one contained half the body of another person while nine other caskets held scattered remains of other victims.
He said the coffin of Archbishop Miron Chodakowski contained only the upper half of his body while the lower half belonged to late General Tadeusz Ploski.
In the coffin of General Bronislaw Kwiatkowski there were 14 body parts belonging to seven other people, Pasionek said, adding that post-mortems would be finished by April next year.
In Moscow, the Kremlin and Russia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to calls and emails asking for comment.
“Today we know that there was no diligence in (the post mortems conducted in Russia). There was nonchalance in the best case, and ill-will in the worst case,” Magdalena Merta, the widow of Tomasz Merta, a senior culture ministry official who died in the crash, told the Polish state agency PAP.
She accused Russia of “displaying a filthy attitude towards our dead”.
The current government’s move to reopen the coffins had split families of victims between those who mistrusted the post-crash procedures conducted in Russia and those who wanted their loved ones to be left to rest in peace.
While some high-ranking PiS officials repeatedly suggested that a bomb onboard brought down the plane, the PiS-led investigations has not produced supporting evidence, but have turned up the apparent failure of post mortems conducted in Russia to correctly identify the victims.
The plane crash occurred as pilots tried to land the Polish delegation in a Soviet-made TU-154 plane near Smolensk to take part in commemorations of thousands of Polish officers executed there by Soviet secret police in 1940.
I remember writing at the time of the crash when speculation about a bomb first surfaced that it was far more likely that the TU-154 suffered some kind of mechanical failure rather than being the target of a terror attack. The TU-154 has one of the worst safety records of any passenger aircraft, although the plane operates in some of the toughest conditions on earth.
It’s no secret that the Russian government and people hold the people of Poland in utter contempt — an attitude nurtured by both the Soviets and the government today. The enmity between the two peoples dates to the time of the second Polish partition in the 1790s when Russia invaded and a savage war ensued.
Certainly the Polish government should demand an explanation from Moscow for the mixed-up body parts. But in the end, it hardly matters. No evidence of an explosion has emerged and while the distrust of the Polish people for the Russian government is well justified, in this case, all they appear guilty of is incompetence.