The defence minister in Poland’s new government has abolished the controversial commission set up under the previously ruling Law and Justice (PiS) to re-examine the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia that resulted in the death of President Lech Lech Kaczyński and 95 others.
PiS has always rejected the official findings that the crash was an accident and has instead argued it was caused deliberately then covered up under an earlier administration led by Donald Tusk, who this week returned as prime minister.
However, despite spending tens of millions on re-investigating the case, PiS has not presented evidence to support its claims.
The government’s Smolensk committee deliberately ignored a US lab’s findings that contradicted its claims the crash was caused deliberately, a TVN report finds.
The head of the committee dismisses TVN’s claims as „lies” promoting a „Russian point of view” https://t.co/Vyugg1dCBR
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 13, 2022
Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, the deputy prime minister and defence minister in Tusk’s new government that was sworn into office on Wednesday this week, signed a decision on Friday abolishing the Smolensk commission.
His ministry also announced that it would appoint a team to analyse the work of the commission, which was established in 2016 and has been accused of misspending state funds and of ignoring or misrepresenting findings that were inconvenient for PiS’s theories about the crash.
“This is the end of lies in the name of the Polish state, this is the end of spending hundreds of millions of zloty on activities that have nothing to do with explaining the causes of the Smolensk disaster, but have a lot to do with politics,” said deputy defence minister Cezary Tomczyk.
“This is a truly historic moment when the Polish state finally faces the truth, when it recognises that it is specialists who explain the causes of a disaster, not politicians, fraudsters and people who use lies as a tool,” he added.
MON informuje, że 15 grudnia br. Pan Władysław Kosiniak – Kamysz, Wicepremier – minister obrony narodowej, podpisał decyzję, parafowaną przez wiceministra Cezarego Tomczyka, o uchyleniu decyzji powołującej Podkomisję MON ds. ponownego zbadania wypadku lotniczego samolotu… pic.twitter.com/PtIlFdRNBI
— Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej 🇵🇱 (@MON_GOV_PL) December 15, 2023
The new government’s decision was, however, condemned and rejected by the commission’s chairman, Antoni Macierewicz, who is also deputy leader of PiS. It was Maciereiwcz who, as defence minister, first established the commission in 2016.
Macierewicz told broadcaster RMF that Kosiniak-Kamysz “does not have the right” to dissolve the body before the planned date of completion of its work in August 2024 and had therefore acted “unlawfully”. He also accused Tomczyk of speaking “nonsense”.
“The operation of the subcommittee is independent: the president, the prime minister or the defence minister have no right to accept or reject its report,” said Macierewicz.
Under Kosiniak-Kamysz’s order, members of the commission had their approvals to act on behalf of the body revoked on Friday and are expected to surrender all documentation and equipment on Monday. It remains unclear to what extent they will comply.
Macierewicz: Podkomisja smoleńska będzie działać. Decyzje szefa MON bezprawne https://t.co/sDJOiU7U6d
— Fakty RMF FM (@RMF24pl) December 16, 2023
Official investigations by both Poland (under the former Tusk government) and Russia found the Smolensk crash to have been an accident. That position was, however, always rejected by Jarosław Kaczyński, identical twin brother of Lech and chairman of PiS.
Last year, Kaczyński declared that the crash was caused by an “attack” resulting from a decision made “at the highest level of the Kremlin”. It was then “covered up” by Donald Tusk’s government, he said
In a further development, this week Poland’s Supreme Court overturned the sentences of two officials – one of whom was Tusk’s chief of staff – convicted of failing to fulfil their duties in relation to the organisation of the Smoleńsk flight.
The Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of Donald Tusk’s former chief of staff for negligence in organising the 2010 flight to Smolensk that crashed, resulting in the death of President Lech Kaczyński and 95 others https://t.co/lMs5ENqkfr
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 13, 2023
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Main image credit: Maciek Jazwiecki / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.