In a move described by the Polish government as “on the verge of treason,” two members of the country’s top opposition party arrived in Washington today to seek an independent investigation of the plane crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other high officials and dignitaries.
Armed with a letter signed by 300,000 Polish citizens, former foreign minister Anna Fotyga and parliamentary committee chairman Antoni Macierewicz of the Law and Justice party are calling for the creation of an international commission to investigate the April 10 crash.
The crash of the Russian Tu-154 plane in thick fog near the western Russian city of Smolensk took out the heart of a leadership uniquely friendly to the U.S. among European Union nations, just before a major election.
Harvey Kushner – a counter-terrorism expert who had worked closely as a consultant with some of the officials who died in the crash – told WND he met today with Fotyga and Macierewicz.
A consultant to numerous U.S. agencies and the author of five books on terrorism, Kushner said there are “so many unanswered questions that for the Russians to take foul play off the table so quickly into the investigation is quite suspicious.”
“There’s nothing in history like this,” he told WND, “where you have an airliner that goes down with such important people, and within a matter of hours the Russians announce that it was pilot error or someone was in the cockpit. This is sheer nonsense.”
The letter delivered to members of Congress was written by the Law and Justice Party’s head, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late president.
It says Poles are “concerned over the investigation, [its] lack of clarity and growing difficulties” and “the absence of any information and the elimination of evidence,” Macierewicz told Poland’s TVN24 television channel.
Kushner noted that the Russian government and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who succeeded Lech Kaczynski, have objected fiercely to Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s move.
Polish government spokesman Pavel Gras has described it as “absolutely scandalous, on the verge of treason.”
Kushner believes the response is telling, asking “What do they have to hide?”
Russian reports immediately after the crash say the Polish pilot, confronted with fog, dismissed four commands from Russian air-traffic control to divert the flight to Moscow or Minsk. Some speculated Kaczynski, distrustful of the Russians, may have ordered the plane to land.
Ironically, the officials were there to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the murder of Poland’s leadership – more than 20,000 people who included political, military, intellectual and civilian leaders. Under orders from Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, about 4,000 of them were shot with their hands tied behind their backs in the Katyn Forest.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski has accused the Polish and Russian governments of “completely abandoning” the investigation and has called on Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk to resign.
Kushner, calling the Russian investigation “sloppy” at best, contended forensic evidence has not been properly examined and noted the Russians have possession of the plane’s black boxes and will not return them.
He told WND the fact that the Russian company that refurbished the plane is doing the technical investigation is enough to cast a cloud over the entire probe.
He pointed out the crash site was not locked down until only a couple of weeks ago. Russian soldiers who were supposed to secure the scene, he said, stole credit cards of the victims, cut up parts of the plane, smashed windows and left the wreckage open to the elements for six months.
Families of the victims, Kushner said, want to exhume the bodies, but the Polish government won’t allow it.
The investigation, he argued, was carried out under the Chicago Convention, which is for civilian aircraft, even though there were NATO commanders on the plane.
In June, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., submitted a resolution calling for an international commission to investigate, but he failed to garner any support from his colleagues.
Kushner said lawmakers on Capitol Hill are asking why they should press for an investigation if the Polish government isn’t asking for it.
But Kushner, insisting there are many unanswered questions, believes the U.S. has a major interest in opening up an international investigation.
Congress, Kushner said, “should pay attention to it, not for the tragedy that befell Poland, the decapitation of their leaders almost 70 years after the Katyn massacre, but because it’s in the vital national security interest of the United States to support an ally in a region of the world that is crucial for U.S. geopolitically.”