Polish defense minister quits over damning crash report

Report lists litany of errors by crew of military plane that crashed in Russia last year killing Poland's president and 95 others.

July 29, 2011 17:26
1 minute read.
Members of a Polish government commission

Members of a Polish government commission 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Peter Andrews)

WARSAW - Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich resigned on Friday after a government report listed a litany of errors and neglect by the crew of the military plane that crashed in Russia last year killing Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.

The long-awaited, 328-page report said the crew of the TU-154 Tupolev plane were poorly trained and ignored crucial safety regulations. It said mistakes by Russian ground staff and poor conditions at Smolensk airport also contributed to the disaster.

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"I accepted (Klich's) resignation because he felt his further presence in the defense ministry would hamper implementation of recommendations made in the report," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference.

Klich's departure from the government, long predicted, is unlikely to have much impact less than three months before a parliamentary election in Poland that Tusk's centrist Civic Platform (PO) is tipped to win.

Tusk named Tomasz Siemoniak, a deputy interior minister, as the new head of the defense ministry.

"There were serious shortcomings in the organization of the unit (of the air force responsible for handling VIP flights)," a member of the investigative commission, Maciej Lasek, told a news conference earlier on Friday presenting the report.

"In order for the unit to carry out its tasks, deliberate decisions were made to disregard or break procedures, to conduct training not in line with training regulations... Pilots straight out of flying schools were accepted and no training flights were carried out."

More experienced pilots had left for more lucrative work in the civilian aviation sector, said Lasek, himself a pilot.

"Of the crew members, only one technician had the proper credentials for the flight. Others did not have proper approval for this flight," he said.

President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, the heads of the armed forces and many senior officials died in the crash as their TU-154 Tupolev plane was trying to land on April 10, 2010, in thick fog near the western Russian city of Smolensk.

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