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Russia blames Poles for Kaczynski jet crash

A Polish air force commander who had been drinking is cited in the crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

Tatyana Anodina
Tatyana Anodina, head of the Moscow-based aviation commission investigating the April 10, 2010, Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft crash near Smolensk, speaks during a news conference in Moscow on January 12, 2011. Experts found alcohol in the blood of the Polish air force chief who was present in the cockpit of the plane carrying president Lech Kaczynski that crashed in Russia. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian officials investigating the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski blamed the Poles on Wednesday, saying the crew was pressured to land in bad weather by an air force commander who had been drinking.

The Tu-154 that crashed last April near the western Russian city of Smolensk was carrying Kaczynski and other senior Polish officials to a ceremony to honor Polish officers killed by Soviet secret police in 1940.

Officials of Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee, which investigates crashes in the former Soviet Union, said Wednesday that the pilots were pressured to land by Gen. Andrzej Blasik, who was in the cockpit, The Washington Post reported. They said he had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.06 percent, enough to impair reasoning.

The crew should have diverted to another airport in light of "repeated and timely" warnings about bad weather in Smolensk, the Interstate Aviation Committee concluded.

The details of the investigation, which were criticized by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in December, were expected to be revealed at a press conference in Moscow later on Wednesday, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

The investigators first sent their report, which killed 96 people, to Tusk on Oct. 20. Tusk sent the report back with 150 comments, labeled the investigation "unacceptable" and said that some of the conclusions it had made were "without foundation."

Polish experts earlier said they were dissatisfied with the documents provided by Russia. Most of the complaints concerned a lack of technical details about the Severny airport in Smolensk

A spokesman for Tusk said the prime minister would not cut short his holiday in the Italian Dolomites to read the final report, according to RIA Novosti.

The crash report is not the only source of tension between Poland and Russia. Some Poles now speculate that the body returned by Russia to Poland is not Lech Kaczynski's.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/russia-and-its-neighbors/110112/russia-blames-poles-kaczynski-jet-crash