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Monday, 12 April 2010

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Poland mourns President, elite killed in crash

RUSSIA: Poles were in deep mourning on Sunday after President Lech Kaczynski and many of the country’s ruling elite were killed in a plane crash.

The ageing Tupolev plane crashed in thick fog near Smolensk in western Russia on Saturday, killing all 97 people on board. Kaczynski had been planning to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish officers by Soviet forces in a nearby forest.

Tens of thousands of mourners thronged the streets of central Warsaw through the night into Sunday, turning the avenue in front of Kaczynski’s palace into a sea of flowers and candles. In this staunchly Roman Catholic country, many sang hymns and prayed. Church doors stayed open for worshippers.

The Chief of Poland’s Armed Forces, the head of its navy, its central bank governor, opposition lawmakers and Kaczynski’s wife Maria were among those killed in the crash.

“Today in the face of such a drama our nation stays united. There is no division into left and right, differences of views don’t matter. We are together in the face of this tragedy,” the Parliamentary speaker, now Poland’s acting president, Bronislaw Komorowski said in a televised address to the nation.

Komorowski declared a week of national mourning. Poles will observe two minutes of silence on Sunday at noon.

Despite Poles’ deep sense of loss, analysts said the crash should not pose any serious threat to the political and economic stability of Poland, a staunch NATO ally of the United States and a member of the European Union.

World leaders expressed shock and sorrow. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia, Poland’s historic foe, told Poles: “This is a tragedy for us too. We feel your pain.”

US President Barack Obama praised Kaczynski’s role in the pro-democracy Solidarity movement that overthrew communism in 1989. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Germany will miss Lech Kaczynski”. Tusk flew to the crash site late on Saturday, where he and Putin laid flowers together. Smolensk,Sunday, Reuters

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