Polish Defense Minister Resigns Over Smolensk Plane Crash

Posted July 29th, 2011 at 2:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich has resigned after the release of a government report that blamed Polish officials and Russian air traffic controllers for a plane crash that killed Poland's president, Lech Kaczynski, and 95 other people.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Friday he accepted Klich's resignation, which he offered on Thursday.

The long-awaited report concluded there were serious errors by the crew of the military plane that was carrying the Polish president when it crashed. It criticized the Polish side, saying the main pilot was inexperienced and was also the only Russian-speaking crew member. It also blamed Russian air traffic controllers for giving incorrect instructions.

Friday's report also said the lighting was bad at the airstrip where the plane crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk in April of 2010.

A Russian report on the crash released earlier this year put all the blame for the accident on the Polish side, raising tensions between the two nations.

Russian investigators said the Polish pilots faced pressure from the political officials on the plane to try to land in heavy fog. But the new Polish report said it did not find there was any such pressure.

President Kaczynski and his delegation were on their way to commemorate the 1940 massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers in Russia's Katyn forest when the plane went down.