Russia: No problems with Polish plane

Pilot knew of poor weather conditions, but still decided to land.

Kaczynski poland plane crash 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Kaczynski poland plane crash 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WARSAW, Poland — Russian investigators said there were no technicalproblems with the Soviet-made plane that crashed and killed the Polishpresident and 95 others over the weekend, suggesting pilot error mayhave been to blame.
The Tu-154 went down while trying to land Saturday in dense fog nearSmolensk airport in western Russia. All 96 passengers and crew aboardwere killed, including Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and dozens ofpolitical, military and religious leaders.
They had been traveling in the government-owned plane to attend amemorial at nearby Katyn forest honoring thousands of Polish militaryofficers who were executed 70 years ago by Josef Stalin's secret police.
The pilot had been warned of bad weather in Smolensk, and was advisedby traffic controllers to land elsewhere — which would have delayed theKatyn observances.
Russian investigators have almost finished reading the flight recorders, Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Bastrykin said.
"The readings confirm that there were no problems with the plane, andthat the pilot was informed about the difficult weather conditions, butnevertheless decided to land," Bastrykin said during a briefing withRussian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Smolensk.
Bastrykin said the readings would be double checked, according to footage of the meeting broadcast Monday on Poland's TVN24.
The wreckage, meanwhile, will remain on site through midweek to helpspeed the investigation, Russian Deputy Transport Minister Igor Levitinsaid.
Both Russia and Ukraine declared a day of mourning Monday, as Polesstruggled to come to terms with the national tragedy that eliminated somany of their government and military leaders.
Tens of thousands watched as Kaczynski's body, returned Sunday toWarsaw, was carried in a coffin by a hearse to the presidential palace.
An annual Holocaust memorial event at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Monday washonoring Kaczynski and the other victims. Organizers of the March ofthe Living — with some 10,000 Jewish youth marching over a mile betweenthe two parts of the former Nazi death camp — said those marching wouldalso remember Poland's elite killed in Saturday's crash.
Forensics experts from Poland and Russia were working to ID otherbodies, including first lady Maria Kaczynski, using DNA testing in manycases. So far some 24 bodies have been identified, including Poland'scivil rights commissioner, Janusz Kochanowski.
Also aboard the Tupelov were the national bank president, the deputyforeign minister, the army chaplain, the head of the National SecurityOffice, the deputy parliament speaker, the Olympic Committee head andat least two presidential aides and three lawmakers.
The pilot was identified as Capt. Arkadiusz Protasiuk, 36, and theco-pilot as Maj. Robert Grzywna, 36. Also on the cockpit crew wereEnsign Andrzej Michalak, 36, and Lt. Artur Zietek, 31.
Kaczynski's family, including his twin Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the formerprime minister, has not yet decided on a date for a funeral or burial.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he wants to attend, according to Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
The Polish president is survived by his mother, Jadwiga; twin brother, Jaroslaw; daughter, Marta, and two granddaughters.