Laying wreaths by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and his cabinet and Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the de facto leader of Poland’s governing right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party at monuments to the victims of Smoleńsk catastrophe will be part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, Michał Dworczyk, head of Polish PM’s office, told PAP news agency on April 9.
Top officials have informed that due to the prevailing coronavirus pandemic, the celebration to mark the 10th anniversary of the Smoleńsk disaster “will be modest”. They have assured that all safety standards and recommendations regarding conduct during the pandemic would be maintained.
Dworczyk said that a decision was made to postpone the visit of the government delegation to Smoleńsk. He added that in recent days Kremlin has not provided Warsaw with an unequivocal answer to the logistics of this visit.
According to previous information provided, nearly 50 Polish officials, including Morawiecki and Kaczyński, were planning on visiting Katyń and Smoleńsk on April 10 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Katyń massacre and the 10th anniversary of the Smoleńsk disaster.
The Smoleńsk air disaster occurred on April 10, 2010, when a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft of the Polish Air Force crashed near the Russian city of Smoleńsk, killing all 96 people on board. Among the victims were the then Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife. The group was traveling from Warsaw to attend an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyń massacre, which took place not far from Smoleńsk.
On March 5, 1940, the Soviet Union decided to shoot Polish prisoners of war in the largest camps at Kozelsk (Optina Monastery), Ostashkov (Stolobny Island on Lake Seliger near Ostashkov) and Starobelsk. A series of mass executions of about 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia was carried out by the Union, specifically the NKVD (“People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs”, the Soviet secret police) in April and May 1940.
The prisoners had been detained by the NKVD in the pre-WWII eastern provinces of the Republic of Poland.
In the years 1940-1990, the USSR authorities denied their responsibility for the Katyń massacre. On April 13, 1990, they officially acknowledged that it was “one of the gravest crimes during Stalinism”. Many issues related to the massacre have not yet been clarified.