Military prosecutors in Poland have filed criminal charges against two Russian air traffic controllers over the 2010 crash in Smolensk, but Russia rebuffs the claims.
“One of the controllers has been charged with direct responsibility for the crash and one with indirect responsibility,” prosecutor Colonel Ireneusz Szelag told a press conference.
The move is said to have caused further strain on the already-tense relations between Russia and Poland.
The three-engined Soviet-era Tupolev crashed in 2010 at the military airport in Smolensk following an attempt to land in foggy conditions.
All of the 96 people aboard the plane died, including then President Lech Kaczyński and other members of the financial, political and cultural elite.
Both Russia and Poland has conducted thorough investigations into the reasons for the crash, and both countries have blamed the other for the crash.
Who’s to blame?
Russia says that the accident was solely due to pilot error.
Poland does not deny this. Colonel Szelag said that the Polish crew was poorly trained and behaved negligently. The investigation discovered that the plane descended too low in its final approach and hit some trees while making its descent to the runway.
Furthermore, the crew did not have the proper paperwork to fly the presidential plane.
However, Poland is convinced that the blame lies, at least in part, with the local air-traffic controllers, who should have called off such a risky landing.
Now, relatives of the victims also intend to ask Russia for compensation to the tune of around PLN 250,000 (USD 67,000) each, said the representative of some of the families.
Russia has rebuffed the charges against its controllers.
“Our investigation into the crime, which began after the disaster, continues,” the spokesperson of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, told the TASS news agency. “The data that we currently have, does not show any violations in terms of management control of the flight,” he added.
Despite several attempts by local authorities to bring the wreckage back to Poland, the remains of the Tupolev are still being kept by Russia. (rg)