Polish film on 2010 air crash points finger at Russia

Polish film on 2010 air crash points finger at Russia

Warsaw (AFP) - A new Polish feature film about the April 2010 jet crash in Russia which killed then president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others has revived conspiracy theories about Moscow's role in the tragedy.

While director Antoni Krauze insists "Smolensk" -- which was released Friday -- is a work of fiction, he mixes fact and fantasy to suggest that the crash was no accident.

The audience at its pre-release premiere last weekend in Poland's national theatre read like a who's who of Polish politics, fueling the idea of a semi-official stamp of approval.

The late president's twin brother, the powerful leader of the governing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his political proteges, President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, were all on hand.

Party leader Kaczynski has long made no secret that he believes foul play caused the crash. Polish and Russian investigators have never found any evidence to support the claim.

An investigation under Poland's previous liberal government concluded that pilot error, thick fog and poor air traffic control were to blame.

Moscow however has not yet handed over the wreckage to Polish authorities.

Most of those who died when the plane came down in Smolensk, western Russia, on April 10, 2010 were senior Polish state officials, including its military chief of staff and central banker. The president's wife also died.

- Ball of fire -

The delegation was heading for memorial ceremonies in Russia's Katyn forest for thousands of Polish army officers killed by the Soviet secret police in 1940, a massacre the Kremlin denied until 1990.

The head of the new PiS-backed investigative subcommittee, Waclaw Berczynski, has reiterated his theory that the Tupolev 154 exploded mid-air, although he has offered no proof.

The film takes a similar approach: the jet explodes into a ball of fire in the air before it crashes.

It also uses archive footage showing the meeting of then Polish prime minister Donald Tusk -- now the EU president -- and then Russian premier Vladimir Putin at the crash site shortly after the disaster, something that has long been the focus of conspiracy theorists.

Other scenes show Russian air traffic controllers at the Smolensk air strip receiving a mysterious order to make Kaczynski's jet descend to 50 meters (165 feet) altitude, while it should have flown at 100 meters.

The film also shows president Lech Kaczynski's 2008 visit to Tbilisi to support Georgia as it fended off attacks by Russia, suggesting his death was an act of revenge by the Kremlin.

The film's release date coincides with the first report of the new PiS-convened investigative subcommittee due to issue its findings about the causes of the crash next week.

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