Report Smolensk air crash

Poland and Russia reconciled?

The solidarity shown by the Russian authorities in the wake of the 10 April air disaster in Smolensk could, which killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski and a swath of the country's political and military elite, is another step forward in the much-postponed rapprochement between Warsaw and Moscow, 70 years after the Katyn massacre.

Published on 12 April 2010 at 11:17
Soldiers salute the coffin of Lech Kaczynski upon its arrival at Warsaw airport, 11 April 2010

There is no such thing as a good death. Every tragic death is senseless and aimless. But today Poles can bring some sense to this unprecedented tragedy in their country's history. For the last 70 years, the name Katyn had little resonance for most people in the west. It was also seen as a symbol of Russophobia on the part of Poles. Paradoxically, what happened on Saturday in Smolensk makes this notion obsolete.

Due to last weekend's tragedy, the killing of 22,000 Polish officers by Russians in 1940 will become common knowledge. We Poles do remember that, but because they wanted to keep Russia happy, its western allies chose not to challenge Russian propaganda blaming Germans for the Katyn massacre. Now, the truth will become widely known – and truth is the very first criterion of any reconciliation.

A second paradox is that the Russian reaction to the deaths – a crash that claimed the life not only of the Polish president, but of many senior government officials and the entire top brass of the military on their way to Katyn – is creating a unique situation. Authentic reconciliation between Poles and Russians, just like that of French and Germans under Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, has now become possible […]. Read full English version of the article in the Guardian...

From Russia

Homage to a political opponent

In the aftermath of the plane crash which resulted in the death of Lech Kaczynski and several members of the Polish leadership, the Russian press remembers the Polish president and hopes that the accident in Smolensk will herald a new departure in Polish-Russian relations. "The recent tragedy in Smolensk is one of the most horrific episodes to have occurred in the troubled history of Poland and Russia," points out Vedomosti, which notes that "relations between the peoples of two countries have rarely been characterized by such an extraordinary level of mistrust." For the business daily, this mistrust has been maintained by "Lech Kaczynski, who did not flinch in the face of deteriorating relations with Russia, or miss an opportunity to actively oppose Russian interests: to wit, his support for the American missile-shield in Poland, his bid to block EU-Russia negotiations, and ardent backing of former Ukranian president Viktor Yushchenko and current Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili." Nezavissimaïa Gazeta remarks on the fact that "Lech Kaczynski unfortunately died on Russian territory while onboard a Russian plane that was serviced in Russia." Even more unfortunate was the coincidence that led him "to die on his way to an event in Katyn to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish army officers, which was to be attended by prime ministers of both countries: Donald Tusk, Kaczynski's domestic opponent, and Vladimir Putin, his foreign policy rival. The effort to downplay the potentially symbolic connotations of this tragedy will require patience and marks of mutual respect, which should now be a priority for Russia."

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