Polish President Lech Kaczynski was killed early Saturday along with his wife, several top military officials, and the head of the national bank when their plane crashed at a western Russian airport, officials said.
“There are no survivors,” said Sergey Antufyev, the governor of Smolensk, where the plane was trying to land when it crashed. Russian emergency officials said 97 people died. Kaczynski was 60.
Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski took over as acting president and declared it “a time for national mourning.”
President Kaczynski has been a loyal friend to the United States, an implacable freedom fighter, and a staunch opponent of collectivism. I am sorry we have lost him as a friend and an ally.What makes this all the more tragic is that President Kaczynski was going to Katyn to commemorate the 70th anniversary cold-blooded slaughter of over 22,000 Poles by the Russians. The Katyn Massacre has become an important day in history for the Polish people, and one which, I do not doubt, helped form President Kaczynski’s opinion of the Russian government (of which he has long been wary).
Ed Driscoll has a roundup of early stories on the crash that also claimed 131 other lives (as of 2 PM my time) including a number of other Polish high government officials. William Jacobson has an extensive tribute to Kaczynski as well. Both of them will update their posts as more news on the crash becomes available.