Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria Kaczynska, and several officials were killed in a plane crash that occurred at 10:50am local time (2:30am EST) at a western Russian airport in Pechorsk, near Smolensk.
Kaczynski was traveling with the Polish delegation to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre during World War II. The flight originated in Warsaw, and it is thought that the plane may have hit some trees at the end of the runway while a landing was attempted in a heavy fog.
The casualties could be particularly devastating to the country’s miliary:
“The entire top military brass, including the chief of defense and all the services, were on the plane,” said Tomas Valasek, of the Center for European Reform.
“If that is true, then you’re looking at a situation, in effect, of the decapitation of the military services.”
Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party released a partial list of those killed:
- Lech Kaczynski — Polish president
- Maria Kaczynska — The president’s wife
- Ryszard Kaczorowski — Poland’s last president-in-exile
- Aleksander Szczyglo — head of the National Security Office
- Pawel Wypych — presidential aide
- Mariusz Handzlik — presidential aide
- Jerzy Szmajdzinski — deputy parliament speaker
- Andrzej Kremer — Deputy Foreign Minister
- Gen. Franciszek Gagor — head of the army chief of staff
- Andrzej Przewoznik — minister in charge of WWII memorials
- Slawomir Skrzypek — head of the National Bank of Poland
- Janusz Kurtyka — head of the National Remembrance Institute
- Przemyslaw Gosiewski — lawmaker
- Zbigniew Wassermann — lawmaker
- Grzegorz Dolniak — lawmaker
- Janusz Kochanowski — civil rights commissioner
- Bishop Tadeusz Ploski — army chaplain
There were no survivors, and 97 people were killed in the crash.