This time of the year is a double anniversary.

katynThe first one commemorates so called Katyń Massacre, a series of mass executions of Polish POWs, policemen and intelligentia, carried out by Soviet secret police, NKVD in April and May 1940. About 22 thousands of Polish citizens, captured after Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 were executed by shot in the back of the head or neck. 50 years later Soviet Union officially acknowledged and condemned the atrocity and subsequent cover-up although they refused to classify it as a war crime or a genocide. It took another 20 years that Russian Duma (parliament) issued a declaration blaming Soviet officials with Stalin first and foremost.

The first official memorial service in Katyń took place in 1988 during which the families of the victims visited the crime scene.

ofiary5 years ago, on Saturday, 10 April 2010 at 8:41:06 CEST a Tupolev Tu-154M aircraft of the Polish Air Force crashed near the Smolensk North Military Aerodrome, Smolensk, Russia, killing all 96 people on board including President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, former President of Poland in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Poland's deputy foreign minister, Polish government officials, 18 members of the Polish parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy, and relatives of victims of the Katyn Massacre. They were en route from Warsaw to attend an event marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre.

The Investigations

The subsequent Russian and Polish investigations revealed that the plane crashed after pilots flew the machine below the Minimum Descent Altitude (the minimum altitude at which a plane is able to discontinue landing procedure) in dense fog. The plane suddenly descended few metres above the ground and started to cut trees. One of them (nicknamed Panzer Birch) severed a part of the left wing of the craft which resulted with the plane rotating along its axis and hitting the ground in nearly upside down position thus killing everyone on board. Russian and Polish reports differ slightly, Russian one for instance claims Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Andrzej Błasik was present in the cockpit during landing and made pilots to attempt to land whereas Polish report claims pilots unsuccessfully attempted to go around (General Błasik's body was found in different area than the cockpit). None of the investigations for some reason attempted the reconstruction of the plane (those watching documentaries about plane crashes know that nearly every investigation involves the reconstruction of the damaged aircraft to investigate the causes of an accident and the sequence of events), and additionally Polish investigators were forced to work with several Russian copies of the recordings from black boxes, not the originals. Generally both investigations seemed to be the best examples of how to not investigate a plane crash. The wreckage was just dumped on the apron of the Smoleńsk North airport and rots there to this day.

The Parliamentary Team

In the meantime the opposition party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość – PiS) headed by the twin brother of the late president Lech Kaczyński formed Parliamentary Team for the Investigation of the Causes of the TU-154 M Disaster of April 10, 2010 to investigate causes of the crash and answer questions and doubts which were ommitted or ignored in official reports. These questions included unusual fragmentation of the aircraft (the debris was spread along the axis about one kilometre long) despite crashing on the soft ground with minimal velocity (usually planes in such circumstances break into few parts and most passengers survive), doubts whether a birch of that size would be able to sever the plane's wing and question how come the severed piece of wing kept flying on its own over much higher trees and the street to land over one hundred metres from the collision, lack of crater as if the plane fell apart before reaching the ground, the fact that all electronics stopped working before the plane collided with the ground and many others.

The conclusions of the Parliamentary Team so far are that the most probable explanation of all the doubts is that the plane was destroyed by a series of blasts in the air.

The Doubts

There were more and more discrepancies emerging, like the footage taken just minutes after the crash with sounds closely resembling gunshots, several photos of the “Panzer Birch” taken after the crash which did not show metal elements of the plane which appeared there only after few weeks, or traces of explosives detected with spectrometers used by Polish investigators, which were later dismissed in somewhat mysterious circumstances, or testimonies of the pilots of another Polish plane, YAK-40, which had landed in Smoleńsk earlier that day, suggesting that Russian controllers caused the crash, and many others. In the meantime several people connected with the catastrofe died in somewhat strange circumstances. One of them was the main witness from the crew of YAK-40 – ensign Remigiusz Muś who committed suicide, another was General Petelicki, after disclosing that just few hours after the crash members of the ruling party had received text messages instructing them to claim the pilots' fault as the main cause of the accident, committed suicide, professor Marek Dulinicz, an archaeologist who was supposed to lead a group of investigators in Smoleńsk died in accident, and few others.

Recently another transcript of the on-board voice recorder leaked from the Military Prosecutors Office in which the thesis of General Błasik pressuring the pilots came back. Also a new book of the German investigating journalist Jürgen Roth, titled Verschlussakte S. was released. Roth claims in the book that BND (German intelligence agency) are convinced that an assassination took place in Smoleńsk five years ago.

The aftermath

Poland is divided as never before. Some people believe the official reports, some don't. The mainstream media nicknamed the latter the Smoleńsk Sect. A huge effort has been made to ridicule the supporters of the assassination theory as well as to suppress the memory about the late president Lech Kaczyński as if a dirty war between the president and the government preceding the catastrophe was not enough (for instance the president's name was entered into secret Database of Operational Knowledge of Internal Security Agency – Poland's domestic intelligence, which literally meant that the head of the 40 million European state could be invigilated by any means at Agency's will).

The mystery of the crash won't be revealed any soon but right now is a perfect tool for the Russian rulers to ignite internal Polish conflicts.

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