The Bureau of the President was ignored when it came to making decisions, Sasin testifies on Smolensk.
Published: date December 9, 2016
“Our impression was that the President’s office was ignored when the government made decisions regarding the visit [to Katyń] on April 10, 2010,” Jacek Sasin, deputy chief of President Lech Kaczynski’s Bureau between 2009 and 2010, told the court.
“The flight was definitely organized by the Prime Minister’s Office,” emphasized Sasin, who is a PiS minister (PiS – Polish Law and Justice Party).
The trial of Tomasz Arabski, the former chief of Prime Minister’s Office and four other officials, prosecuted based on private complaint by some of the Smolensk victims’ families for negligence and breach of duty of due care while organizing President Kaczyński’s visit to Smolensk on April 10, 2010, continues at the Warsaw’s District Court.
While testifying as a witness, Sasin stated that the President’s Office was to “order transport, select administrators, and inform the Prime Minister’s Office about the President and his delegation’s flight date.”
“We completed our duties by ordering the flight. All other issues that had to do with the logistics and technical part of the flight were the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Bureau of the President had no opportunity, competence or tools to duplicate those tasks,” said Sasin.
When answering questions asked by one of the subsidiary prosecutors from prosecutor Andrzej Lew-Mirski’s team, Sasin stated that he never witnessed President Lech Kaczyński questioning or requesting any changes of plans with regards to a landing airport. Sasin mentioned the flight to Podhale, which was re-directed to Katowice Airport rather than to Kraków Airport due to the weather conditions.
He also added that from the beginning of preparing this visit, the entire staff of the Bureau of the President was well aware of a conflict between the visits of President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk to Katyń.
“We anticipated a cancellation of the flight. This scenario already happened before, The President’s visit was stopped due to the lack of transport,” said Sasin.
Sasin recalled a statement made by Tusk government officials, who told the media that “President Kaczyński’s visit to Katyn was pointless.” Such statement indicated a possibility of such a scenario. Additionally, the Russian side informed to the Bureau of the President that Russia “knew nothing about the President’s visit.”
“Our impression was that great efforts were undertaken in order to show that the President’s visit [to Katyn] would not be official,” said Sasin.
He shared his opinion that had the visit been treated as official, “the services would try harder,” stressing that this was just his presumption, though. He mentioned that President Lech Kaczyński’s involvement in the Katyń commemoration event was planned as early as 2009. He added that first signals of possible problems regarding this visit came from Andrzej Przewoźnik, Secretary of the Polish Council for Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom who was killed in the fatal flight. In a conversation from the end of January 2010, during an anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Przewoznik alluded to the problem.
As Sasin stated, when talking to Przewoźnik, he had an impression that he knew about Prime Minister Tusk’s plans and that Tusk’s idea was that he should be “the most important official” during the Katyń commemoration. “That was how I interpreted the conversation with Andrzej Przewoźnik,” confirmed Sasin.
He emphasized that the suggestion to change President’s place of commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre to for example Mednoye was made during that very conversation. “I passed on the message to the President, but the answer was that the President did not see a reason why in such an important anniversary both him and the Prime Minister could not participate,” said Sasin.
Sasin emphasized that the President’s staff responsible for the Katyń visit learned about the separation of the President’s and Prime Minister’s visits to Katyn at the end of February 2010 from the media.
“It was never officially communicated, and the only written communication stated that the official national commemoration of the Katyń crime would take place on April 10, and that President Lech Kaczyński would lead the event. Later, the media announced that Prime Minister Tusk would visit Katyn on April 7,” said Sasin.
The witness stated that in his opinion arrangements between the Polish and Russian governments were focused on Prime Minister Tusk’s visit on April 7, 2010, and ignored the President’s visit planned for April 10, 2010.
“I consider it as a way of ignoring the President’s Office by the Prime Minister’s Office,” the witness testified.
He gave an example in support of his opinion. Sasin described how the Polish team designated to arrange both visits went to Russia at the end of March 2010. He emphasized that the President’s people participated only partially in this event – they did not see the airport, but they visited the cemetery in Katyń, and the venue in Smolensk, where the President was to meet with Polish people living in Russia.
He confirmed that he had no information that the Smolensk Airport could pose any danger, and that flights of official delegations to that Airport were infrequent in the previous years.
“Such indication would not be surprising anyway, because it happened in the past that some of the President’s visits required a change of airport, initiated either by BOR (Bureau for Protection of State Officials) or the army,” stated Sasin.
He added that the lack of such indication was interpreted as a green light to conduct the visit safely. He stressed that just before the flight to Smolensk – on March 31 – a security check took place, and no serious problems were identified. Sasin said that any problems that were identified pertained to the visas for the delegates. He also said that only air transport was considered for the President’s visit.
Sasin reported that Mariusz Handzlik, deputy secretary in the President’s office who died in the crash, contacted Jerzy Bahr, Polish Ambassador to Russia, and asked for representatives of the President’s office to be able to discuss the visit with the Russian side. The only answer was in a form of a letter, which stated it was not possible to arrange such discussions since Mr. Arabski from Prime Minister’s office arranged his own meetings at the same time.
“The fact remains that it was the Prime Minister’s Office, which organized and made all decisions regarding President Lech Kaczyński and his delegation’s flight. I can’t say otherwise because that is a fact,” Sasin told journalists when he left the court after his nearly three-hour interview.
The trial will continue and more witnesses will be interviewed during hearings scheduled for January 9 and 23, 2017.
Click on the thumbnails below to view screen dumps from the detectors used to examine the wreckage and seats from the Polish president's plane crash in Smolensk. An "X" denotes the presence of the detected explosive substance and its type. The underlined Polish word "Probka" or "probka" in the screen dump 1 and 2, means "Sample"
Why did they all fly on the same plane?
Synopsis: January 12, 2013, Toronto, Canada. The wife of the late Deputy-Minister of Culture Tomasz Merta: "What I am about to tell you now, are suspicions - and not even my own - but, rather the [suspicions of the] individuals in the inner-circles of the [Polish] military... I heard a statement that was made - but, I am not taking any responsibility for how credible, or not credible it is. [I heard that] had the generals and journalists' not been re-assigned to different aircraft, it wouldn't have been the Tupolev [Tu-154M], but rather the Casa [transport aircraft] that would have been taken out.
Because the Generals were no longer onboard the Casa, there was no reason for it to get airborne. And for this reason it was the Yak[-40] that flew off to Smolensk. This Casa [transport aircraft] was never examined in any way. It was not subject to any examination. Aside from a single note in the deposition given to the military, no one was interested why this aircraft didn't fly [to Smolensk]. Perhaps, this is someones crazy phantasy, but perhaps it isn't.
Some [Polish] military personnel had suggested, that it [the Casa] had to stay behind at the Okecie military [tarmack], so that the explosives could be removed from it - because they were no longer needed [...] I am only repeating what I was told."
"Disarming" Explosives ...
It is worth for us to retrace the entire process of "disarming" the case of explosive substances at the crash site. It all started with the publication of Cezary Gmyz in "Rzeczpospolita" on October 30, 2012, and information that the detectors, which were used by experts in Smolensk (in late September and October) showed traces of TNT and nitroglycerine.
As it turned out, the journalist was also reporting about the indication of Hexogen. The storm broke. The prosecution denied the publication, and ultimately, the editor-in-chief of "Rzeczpospolita," Cezary Gmyz and two other journalists lost their jobs. The entire editorial staff of one of Poland’s most popular weeklies, "Uważam Rze", was also silenced.
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