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Polish crew blamed in Kaczynski air crash
MOSCOW, Jan 12 (Agencies):
Published on 12 Jan. 2011 9:17 PM IST
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Russian officials investigating the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski placed the blame squarely on the Poles on Wednesday, saying the crew was pressured to land in bad weather by an air force commander who had been drinking.
Kaczynski and 95 others, including his wife, died in April 2010 when their plane crashed while trying to land in Smolensk, Russia. There were no survivors.
Officials of the Interstate Aviation Committee, which investigates crashes in much of the former Soviet Union, said Wednesday that the pilots were pressured to land by Poland’s air force commander, Gen. Andrzej Blasik, who was in the cockpit. They said he had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.06 percent, enough to impair reasoning.
Blasik’s presence in the cockpit “had a psychological influence on the commander’s decision to rake an unjustified risk by continuing the descent with the predominant goal of landing against the odds,” committee chairwoman Tatiana Anodina told a news conference announcing the final results of the investigation. The report found no fault with Russian air traffic controllers.
That is likely to anger Polish officials, who have complained that previous drafts of Russia’s report should have questioned whether controllers should have allowed the plane to land in poor visibility. In December, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk accused the Russian investigators of negligence and mistakes.
Kaczynski and his delegation were on their way to attend a ceremony commemorating the victims of the 1940 Katyn massacre, in which 20,000 Polish officers and other prisoners of war were killed by the Soviet secret police.
Efforts to cover up responsibility for the massacre have long been a significant irritant in relations between Poland and Russia. But in recent years Russia has attempted to overcome the tensions by releasing thick dossiers of documents and saying the killings were ordered by dictator Josef Stalin.
The symbolic importance of Kaczynski’s planned visit apparently increased the pressure to land the aircraft despite the poor conditions. But the head of the committee’s technical commission, Alexei Morozov, said there was no “concrete command” from Kaczynski to land.
The blood-alcohol content found in Blasik was lower than what is generally considered outright intoxication. But the professional pilots and physicians grouphttp://www.flightphysical.comsays “the number of serious errors committed by pilots dramatically increases at or above concentrations of 0.04 percent,” lower than Blasik’s level.

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