Poland marks 12th anniversary of Smolensk air disaster

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Poland marks 12th anniversary of Smolensk air disaster

Poland, on Sunday, commemorated the 12th anniversary of the Smolensk air disaster, which killed 96 people, including Poland's then president Lech Kaczynski.

On April 10, 2010, the aircraft carrying President Kaczynski, his wife and dozens of senior government officials and commanders of Polish armed forces crashed as it came in to land at a military airfield near Somlensk, western Russia, at 8: 41 a.m.

The delegation was on its way to nearby Katyn to attend events marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre in 1940, in which close to 22,000 Polish police officers, policemen and administrative staff were murdered at the hands of the Soviets.

On Sunday, to mark the anniversary, sirens wailed in many Polish towns at 8: 41 a.m. to honor the victims of the tragedy.

The decision to use sirens was sharply criticised by the opposition and some local governments, which said it could have caused anxiety among war refugees from Ukraine and cause war-related stress.

The Interior Ministry said earlier in the day that a text message alert had been sent to Ukrainians who had SIM cards that were logged into Polish mobile networks to inform them that sirens would be turned on.

Wreaths were laid and candles were lit at monuments commemorating Lech Kaczynski and the other victims in Pilsudski Square in central Warsaw and across Poland.

Polish diplomats laid flowers at the site of the air crash.

Leaving Wawel Castle in Krakow, where the presidential couple is buried, President Andrzej Duda said this year's observances of the Smolensk air disaster had a special poignancy due to the war in Ukraine.

Today, we can see the bodies of the murdered people in a destroyed Ukraine. Just like then, when we saw a destroyed airplane and the bodies of the people killed in the air disaster, Duda said.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late president and leader of Law and Justice, Poland's governing party, has long maintained that his brother was assassinated. PAP at md jchch