A state-only delegation, including people performing public functions, prime minister and his associates, would go to Smoleńsk to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the fatal accident, Jacek Sasin, Poland’s deputy prime minister, said. According to him, the country’s authoritarian de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, whose brother died in the accident, “intends” to go to Smoleńsk.
There are many elderly who belong to the group most at risk of coronavirus infection and we cannot take such risk and responsibility so that they can participate in the event, the deputy PM told Radio Zet, a Polish private broadcaster, on March 25. He added that it has to be a delegation of fewer than 50 people. Born in June 1949, Kaczyński is nearing 71.
The Smolensk air disaster occurred on April 10, 2010, when a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft of the Polish Air Force crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk, 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 Katyn massacre, which took place not far from Smolensk.
“We decided that the 10th anniversary of the Smolensk catastrophe and also the 80th anniversary of the Katyn massacre are such events in the history of our nation that they cannot go completely unnoticed … The commemoration of the victims must take place,” said Sasin.
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 Katyn 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.