Russia should hand over the wreckage of Polish Air Force Tu-154M
to Polish authorities ‘without further delay.’
Published: October 14, 2018
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recalls that under Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention, the State of occurrence is required to return the wreckage and other evidentiary material to the State of registration of the aircraft as soon as the technical air safety investigation is completed, which was the case in January 2011. The continuing refusal of Russia to return the wreckage and other evidence to Poland constitutes an abuse of rights.
Assembly debate on 12 October 2018 (36th Sitting) See Doc. 14607, report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mr. Pieter Omtzigt. Text adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on 12 October 2018 (36th Sitting).
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Resolution 2246 (2018)
The crash of Polish Air Force Tu-154M transporting the Polish State Delegation, on April 10, 2010, on the Russian Federation's territory
On 10 April 2010, a Tupolev Tu-154M aircraft was carrying the Polish State delegation, led by President Lech Kaczyński, from Warsaw to Smolensk, in the Russian Federation, to attend a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyń massacre. The plane crashed at Smolensk Severny aerodrome, killing all 96 persons on board (eight crew members and 88 passengers). The victims included President Lech Kaczyński, his wife Maria and many dignitaries and high-ranking Polish officials, including military chiefs of staff (army, air force and navy) and the President of the National Bank of Poland.
2. The Parliamentary Assembly notes that investigations were commenced immediately after the crash in order to determine the factors that led to this tragic event. Whilst Poland would have been entitled to lead the investigation, the Polish Government agreed with its Russian counterpart that the air safety investigation into the causes of the crash be carried out by the Russian Inter-State Aviation Committee (as the competent authority in the State where the crash took place), with the participation of Polish experts. Both States agreed that the main technical investigation be conducted according to the International Standards and Recommended Practices specified in Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), which normally apply to civil aviation, despite the fact that the Polish Air Force Tu-154M was registered as a State aircraft and the fateful flight served State purposes.
3. The report of the investigation team of the Russian Inter-State Aviation Committee published on 12 January 2011 concluded that “[t]he immediate cause of the accident was the failure of the crew to take a timely decision to proceed to an alternate aerodrome although they were numerous times timely informed on the actual weather conditions at Smolensk “Severny” Airdrome that were significantly lower than the established airdrome minima; descent without visual contact with ground references to an altitude much lower than minimum descent altitude for go-around (100 m) in order to establish visual flight as well as no reaction to the numerous TAWS warnings [Terrain Awareness and Warning System] which led to controlled flight into terrain, aircraft destruction and death of the crew and passengers”.
4. The Polish authorities’ comments on the draft of the Russian Inter-State Aviation Committee report were not taken into account in the final version of the report. The Polish Committee for Investigation of National Aviation Accidents subsequently issued its own report, on 29 July 2011. This report stipulates that “[t]he immediate cause of the accident was the descent below the minimum descent altitude at an excessive rate of descent in weather conditions which prevented visual contact with the ground, as well as a delayed execution of the go-around procedure. Those circumstances led to an impact on a terrain obstacle resulting in separation of a part of the left wing with aileron and consequently to the loss of aircraft control and eventual ground impact”.
5. Whilst both reports agree on the basic nature of the tragedy as an accident, the Russian report places all responsibility on the aircraft’s crew members; the Polish investigators concluded that Russian air traffic control also played a part in the accident by transmitting incorrect information to the crew regarding the aircraft’s position, and that deficiencies of Smolensk airport contributed to the crash. The Polish side has also put into doubt the independence and neutrality of the Russian Inter-State Aviation Committee.
6. On 11 April 2018, the Committee for Re-Investigation of the Crash of Tu-154M in Smolensk, Russia, appointed by the Polish Government, published a new preliminary report in which it concluded that the aircraft was “destroyed in the air as a result of several explosions”.
7. Now, over eight years after the accident, the Russian Federation still maintains possession of the plane wreckage, the black boxes with original flight data recordings and other evidentiary material. Whilst copies of flight data recordings and some material evidence have been transmitted to the Polish authorities, Poland has strongly insisted for years that the wreckage and all original materials be returned. In both countries, criminal investigations relating to the crash are still open.
8. The Assembly recalls that under Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention, the State of occurrence is required to return the wreckage and other evidentiary material to the State of registration of the aircraft as soon as the technical air safety investigation is completed, which was the case in January 2011. The continuing refusal of the Russian authorities to return the wreckage and other evidence constitutes an abuse of rights and has fuelled speculation on the Polish side that Russia has something to hide.
9. The Assembly therefore calls on the governments of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Poland to engage in international mediation on how to implement the conclusions in paragraph 10.1, and to report back to the Assembly on the results within 12 months of the adoption of this resolution.
10. Given that the technical air safety investigation by the Russian Inter-State Aviation Committee was completed, and its Final Report published in 2011, the Assembly further calls on the Russian Federation to:
10.1. hand over the wreckage of the Polish Air Force Tu-154M to the competent Polish authorities without further delay, in close co-operation with Polish experts, and in a manner that avoids any further deterioration of potential evidence;
10.2. meanwhile, adequately protect the wreckage in a manner agreed with Polish experts;
10.3. refrain from carrying out any more activities at the site of the crash that could be seen as desecrating this location, which has a powerful emotional significance for many Poles.
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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