Saturday marked 95 months since a Polish plane carrying President Lech Kaczyński, his wife and 94 others – including top political and military figures – crashed near Smolensk, western Russia.
The event is commemorated every month in Warsaw with ceremonies including religious services and a procession to the Presidential Palace, known as the March of Remembrance.
The day’s observances began with a Catholic Mass attended by Poland's ruling party chief Jarosław Kaczyński, twin brother of the late president, and other prominent conservative politicians, among them former Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who in February 2016 appointed a new team of investigators to look into the disaster.
Later in the day, officials led by Jarosław Kaczyński laid flowers at a commemorative plaque outside the Presidential Palace.
Meanwhile, Adam Kwiatkowski, a senior aide to Poland’s current President Andrzej Duda, laid a wreath at a plaque in the chapel of the Presidential Palace commemorating the late Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria as well as presidential staffers who died in the crash on April 10, 2010.
On Saturday evening, more ceremonies were scheduled to take place, with Jarosław Kaczyński expected to address the monthly March of Remembrance as he has done every month since the disaster almost eight years ago.
Kaczyński has previously said that the monthly tributes would go on until a total of 96 marches have been held to honour all 96 victims of the crash.
He also said late last year that the monthly marches would continue until monuments to the Smolensk disaster victims are erected in Warsaw on the eighth anniversary of the crash.
Probe in progress
Poland’s governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, of which Kaczyński is leader, has long challenged an official report into the crash issued by Poland’s previous government, which cited a catalogue of errors on the Polish side, while also pointing to errors made by Russian staff at the control tower of Smolensk Military Airport.
A Russian report placed all the blame on the Poles.
PiS has launched its own inquiry into the crash which, in initial findings, suggested the plane was probably destroyed by a mid-air explosion, and that Russian air traffic controllers deliberately misled the Polish pilots about their location as the presidential plane approached the runway of the Smolensk military airport in 2010.
In mid-December last year, Macierewicz, who was still Poland's defence minister at the time, said that Russia was responsible for the plane crash. He also said that the Polish presidential plane, which crashed near the western Russian city of Smolensk on April 10, 2010, was destroyed by "two explosions."
In January, the new team of investigators appointed by Macierewicz said that the jet’s left wing was destroyed as a result of an explosion on board.
The commission said that the explosion had “several sources” on the plane.
In early February, around-the-clock channel Sky News reported that a British air accident investigator had told it he believed there were explosions on board the Polish president’s plane before its fatal crash in 2010.
Source: IAR/PAP, twitter.com/prezydentpl