Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Poland's government reassures country after deaths of top officials
With the country still reeling from Saturday's horrific plane crash that killed dozens of Poland's top political and military leaders, including President Lech Kaczynski, parliament speaker Bronislaw Komorowski went on television to reassure his stunned nation that the October presidential election would be moved up several months. Komorowski, who became acting president after Kacynski and 95 others were killed in the crash of their plane outside the Russian city of Smolensk, told his country that the election would now be held May 30 or June 13 under a procedure laid out in Poland's constitution. "The election date must be set," Komorowski told the TVP Info station while pledging to announce the date Wednesday, according to the Reuters international news service. "This must be done as soon as possible to shorten the period in which Poland is in a period of uncertainty." Kacynski, his wife, and a long list of military and government leaders died April 10 when their plane went down while trying to land in Smolensk, near the Katyn Forest. Poland's leadership was en route to Russia to take part in ceremonies marking the anniversary of the World War II-era massacre of thousands of military officers by the Soviet secret police in Katyn Forest, a massacre blamed for decades on the Nazis. Then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev revealed in 1990 that his country actually was responsible. The revelation has poisoned relations between Poland and Russia even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Komorowski, a leading member of Prime Minister Donald Tusk's centrist Civic Platform (PO) party, was heavily favored to win the presidential election but the possibility of a large sympathy vote for candidates from Kacynski's conservative Law and Justice party has put the outcome in doubt, Reuters said. Other prominent officials killed in the crash included Gen. Franciszek Gagor, the head of the Polish Army, Gen. Andrzej Blasik, commander of the Polish Air Force; Vice Admiral Andrzej Karweta, commander of the Polish Navy; Slawomir Skrzypek, chairman of the National Bank of Poland; former defense minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski, a presidential candidate; Krzysztof Putra, the deputy parliament speaker; and Piotra Nurowski, head of the Polish Olympic Committee.