A committee of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe adopted last week a report on the air crash outside Smolensk, Russia, in April 2010, calling on Russia to return the wreckage. In the crash the Polish president, his wife and 94 other people representing the Polish state lost their lives. The Polish plane crashed on 10 April 2010 on its route to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet secret police during the Second World War.
The report was adopted unanimously and prepared by Dutch Christian Democrat MP Pieter Omtzigt. He played also a role in the investigations of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH-17) which was shot down on 17 July 2014 when flying over separatist eastern Ukraine, killing all on board.
Omtzigt’s mandate did not include investigating the causes of the Smolensk crash and was limited to a legal review of the previous Russian and Polish investigations of the crash. The Russian authorities did not respond to him for a written request for information.
“The continuing refusal of the Russian authorities to return the wreckage and other evidence constitutes an abuse of rights and has fueled speculation on the Polish side that Russia has something to hide,” the report says. More than 7 years have passed since the technical investigations.
Russia has until now refused to return the wreckage and black boxes to Poland.
In a parallel development, at the summit in Brussels last week (28 June) the European Council called on Russia to “accept its responsibility and to fully cooperate with all efforts to establish truth, justice and accountability” as regards the downing of flight MH-17.
In the case of flight MH-17, pro-Russian separatists cordoned-off the crash site, seized the black boxes, and attempted to conceal sections of wreckage damaged by a missile. International actions combined with widespread condemnation enabled Dutch and Australian experts to swiftly enter the crash site and forced the separatists to surrender the flight recorders.
Russia has denied all responsibility for the shooting-down of MH-17.
A member of the Federation of Katyn Families who brought-in an independent team of four European air accidents investigators to re-examine all aspects of the Smolensk crash for the Polish Ministry of Defence told the Brussels Times on Tuesday:
“The report by MP Pieter Omtzigt labels Russia’s action as ‘an abuse of rights’ and calls for a determination of criminal responsibilities.”
The Federation of Katyn Families member further stated that, “In light of this far-reaching report, he is urging the Polish government to submit evidence of further abuses to the autumn plenary session of the Council of Europe such as the desecration of crash victims’ remains, missing bodies, and a raft of related human rights matters.”
Reviews prepared by British air crash investigator Frank Taylor for the Polish Ministry of Defence on the previous Russian and Polish reports on the Smolensk air crash found that neither follow the Chicago ICAO Annex 13 format, serious omissions and deficiencies are evident in both, and there is insufficient evidence to support major findings.
The Brussels Times has learned that a leading firm of London-based lawyers is planning to launch a fast-track legal action via an international jurisdiction to disqualify both reports, and to subsequently establish criminal responsibilities.