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Smolensk crash: Russia should hand over the aircraft wreckage to Polish authorities ‘without further delay’

The PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights considers that the Russian Federation should “hand over the wreckage of the Polish Air Force Tu-154 to the competent Polish authorities without further delay”, in close co-operation with Polish experts, and in a manner that “avoids any further deterioration” of potential evidence.

On 10 April 2010, a Tupolev Tu-154M aircraft was carrying a Polish State delegation, led by President Lech Kaczynski, from Warsaw to Smolensk in the Russian Federation to attend a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyń Massacre. The plane crashed at Smolensk Severny Aerodrome, killing all 96 persons on board.

Unanimously adopting a draft resolution based on a report prepared by Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD), the committee recalls that under Appendix 13 of the Chicago Convention, the State of occurrence is required to return the wreckage and other evidentiary material to the State of registration of the aircraft as soon as the technical air safety investigation is completed, which was the case in January 2011. “The continuing refusal of the Russian authorities to return the wreckage and other evidence constitutes an abuse of rights and has fuelled speculation on the Polish side that Russia has something to hide,” the adopted text underlines.

The committee also calls on the Russian Federation to refrain from carrying out any more activities at the site of the crash that could be seen as desecrating this location, which has a powerful emotional significance for many Poles. It calls on the law enforcement authorities of both States to fully co-operate in establishing any possible criminal responsibilities related to the crash, including by swiftly making any evidence available on the request of the other State.