Poland suffers national tragedy as president and others die in plane crash

By bne IntelliNews April 10, 2010

bne -

Poland has suffered a huge national tragedy the effects of which won't become clear for weeks as a plane carrying a full presidential delegation to Russia crashed in foggy weather on its approach to the airport April 10, killing all 96 people aboard.

Also on board the plane that was carrying President Lech Kaczynski to Smolensk in Russia to mark 70 years since the Katyn massacre of thousands of Poles by Soviet forces, were: his wife Maria; central bank Governor Slawomir Skrzypek; Wladyslaw Stasiak chief of the president's chancellery; Jerzy Szmajdzinski deputy speaker of the lower house; Andrzej Kremer Foreign Ministry's undersecretary of state; Stanislaw Komorowski deputy minister of national defence; and Franciszek Gagor chief of the General Staff.

"We are in a state of national mourning," said an emotional Prime Minister Donald Tusk on national TV. "We have a meeting of the cabinet and parliament tomorrow and will observe a moment of silence."

Smolensk regional governor Sergei Antufiev told Russian TV that according to preliminary reports, the president's plane got caught up in the tops of trees, fell to the ground and broke up into pieces. "There are no survivors in that crash."

Poland was heading toward a presidential election in October, which Kaczynski was well behind in the polls to the candidate of PM Tusk's Civic Platform party, Parliamentary Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski. Poland's constitution states that a date for the elections must be named within two weeks of the death of a head of state, and then the ballot must occur within 60 days. That means that the election must now take place no later than June 20.

In the meantime, Komorowski will assume the position as head of state, which he could then win in the election.

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