Russia ignores Council of Europe’s call for return of plane wreck to Poland

The Kremlin refuses to return the wreckage and the black boxes of the presidential plane to Poland. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Минеева Ю. (Julmin)

Russia ignored the Council of Europe’s (CoE) resolution calling on Moscow to return the wreckage of the Polish presidential plane that crashed in 2010 over the Russian territory of Smoleńsk killing 96 key Polish officials including president Jarosław Kaczyński, his wife and top Polish military commanders.

According to the Polish Press Agency (PAP), the Russian foreign ministry stated that “the principled stance of the Russian Federation is that we do not deem ourselves obliged by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] during the forced absence of the Russian delegation in the works of the Assembly.”

The ministry also reiterated that the wreckage of the Polish plane is evidence in the investigation of the Russian Federation’s Investigative Committee.

The debate on “The crash of Polish Air Force Tu-154M transporting the Polish State delegation, on 10 April 2010 on the Russian Federation's territory” took place in the Council of Europe on Friday.

The main issue constituted Russia’s continuous possession of the wreckage and the black boxes and refusal to release them to Poland. A report prepared by Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, citing the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, argued that the aircraft should be returned to Poland.

In spite of the vote, however, the decision does not have any legal binding and a member of the Parliamentary Assembly Aleksander Pociej said that its effect “is purely a strongly moral one.”

The Polish presidential plane crashed in Smolensk in Western Russia, killing everyone on board, including President Lech Kaczyński and the First Lady as well as top state officials eight years ago. The total death toll was 96. The Polish delegation was on its way to a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre in Katyn, where Polish army officers were executed by the Russians during WWII.

The wreckage of the plane is currently situated at Smolensk airport, where the plane crashed as it was attempting to land in thick fog.