The Smolensk Lesson By Maria Szonert Binienda, M.L., J.D., MBA
Maria Szonert Binienda
While some Russian intellectuals and people in Central and Eastern Europe are alarmed by the Russian imperialistic ambitions of building “a new world order,” the West is utterly confused. In order to properly understand and evaluate the threat that Russia poses today, an unhindered analysis of the Russian behavior over the past decade is necessary. Unfortunately, due to the omnipresent policy of reset that forced Western media to abandon in-depth reporting on Russian hostility towards its neighbors, critical developments that took place in the regions bordering Russia over the past decade have not been reported at all or only favorably to Russia.1
Among such key events is the political situation in Poland since 2007, with its central event - the crash of the Polish Air Force One in Smolensk, Russia, in April of 2010 that claimed the lives of the President of Poland, the entire Central Command of the Polish Armed Forces, and the patriotic leadership of the Polish society. Any analysis of the political context of this crash as well as any discussion of the problems with the investigation into this tragedy have been systematically suppressed by the Western media in order not to upset Russia.2 Consequently, the lack of knowledge about Russian behavior in connection with the Smolensk tragedy impairs judgment of the American public on current Russian behavior in Ukraine and elsewhere.
Not much has been written in the West about Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland who was killed in Smolensk. Although he and his party, Law and Justice, have deep roots in the Solidarity Movement and impressive record of fighting the communists, it became fashionable to label this political movement as “radical right” in order to conveniently eliminate it from public discussion in accordance with political correctness. Consequently, the presidency of Lech Kaczynski and the circumstances of his tragic death were largely ignored by the West.
A Soviet strategy to eliminate players inconvenient to Russia by labeling them as “radical right” and “fascists” was brought back to life from the Stalinist era by the government of Vladimir Putin.3 The Civic Platform eagerly embraced this strategy by portraying as “radical right” its key political opponent - Law and Justice. As the governing party, the Civic Platform used the prestige of the office of the Polish Government to weaken its main political opponent on the international scene by framing the Law and Justice as “radical right.” In fact, Russia and the Tusk government worked hand in hand to discredit and destroy the Law and Justice for their determination to bring to justice communist criminals and for resisting the resurgence of Russian control over Poland.
2014 Ukraine. Maidan Protesters. PHOTO by BBC
The strategy of framing Putin’s opponents as fascists finally came for proper international scrutiny in connection with the pro-Western struggle of the people of Maydan. This deceptive tactic of labeling all opponents of Russian imperialistic expansionism as “fascists” became evident during the Ukrainian crisis and has been unequivocally condemned by the world community.4 Thanks to pro-Western freedom fighters of Ukraine, the West began to wake up to Putin’s plot. Once Russian footprints in framing the pro-Western Maydan as fascist became evident, the West began to reevaluate its position. Hence, the time comes to bring back from oblivion the true history of Poland of the past decade, so effectively suppressed by subversive fascist rhetoric of the Putin and Tusk governments.
President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslav Kaczynski represented a political wing of the Solidarity Movement that opposed a policy of preserving the influence of communist apparatchiks in post 1989 Poland. This group evolved over time into the Law and Justice Party, currently the largest party in Poland. The only political force in Poland that demanded accountability for crimes committed by the communist regime has been the Law and Justice Party. This is also the only party in Poland which consistently demands that all former Soviet agents be barred from holding any public office. Also, it is the Law and Justice that stands up for the rights of Polish veterans persecuted by communists for not surrendering to Soviet control after World War II, and for the rights of the Polish diaspora unable to return to communist Poland after the war.5 Unfortunately, due to the growing infiltration of Poland by agents of Russian interest, the Law and Justice has not been able to achieve these key objectives.
Once the wind of history closed the Holy Book on the casket of John Paul II in April 2005, Russia raised its sword. Late President Kaczynski frequently spoke against the growing influence of a pro-Russian lobby not only in Poland but also in the European Union and the structures of NATO. In the summer of 2008, in response to Russian aggression on Georgia, President Kaczynski mobilized European leaders to travel to Tbilisi. Through their physical presence, the five leaders of the European Union protected Georgia from Russian invasion. At a rally in Tbilisi President Lech Kaczynski stated:
Our neighbors showed their true face, the one we have known for years. These neighbors believe that nations around them should be subjugated to them. We say ‘no’! This is Russia. This country believes that the old times of recent empire return, that domination once again will become the characteristic of this region. It will not be so! These times are gone forever. We all experienced this domination. This is a calamity for Europe. This is breaking of people’s characters, this is imposing foreign system, foreign language. But today, we are here together. Today the world must react. We know very well that today is Georgia, tomorrow may be Ukraine, after tomorrow Baltic Republics, and later possibly it’s time for my country - Poland. (…) We were deeply convinced that the membership in NATO and the European Union would end Russian appetite, but evidently this is not the case. Nevertheless, we should be able to resist this action if values that Europe stands for have any meaning.6
Lech Kaczynski in Tiibilisi, Georgia, 2008. PHOTO by FREEREPUBLIC.
In addition to a policy of building a strong coalition of Central European countries, Poland began to uncover the truth about the scope and character of Soviet crimes committed on Polish citizens during World War II. Under the leadership of President Kaczynski, Poland demanded the full truth about the extermination of the Polish population during World War II, in particular a full account of the extermination operations conducted under the Katyn Execution Order of March 5, 1940. This policy was countered by Russia with a policy of Anti-Katyn that aimed at justifying the Katyn genocide. In March of 2009, Russian Minister of Emergency Operations Sergei Shojgu stated: "Our parliament should pass a law that would envision liability for the denial of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War. Then the presidents of certain countries denying this would not be able to visit our country and remain unpunished."7 Gen. Shojgu forces were among the first ones on the crash scene in Smolensk on April 10, 2010.8
At the commemoration ceremony on the70th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII, world leaders including Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and representatives of the United States met at Westerplatte in Poland. Upon greeting the world leaders, President Kaczynski stated inter alia:
Munich represents a pact, which requires reflection… Between honor and dishonor politicians chose dishonor but even this choice did not prevent a war. Not always, as in the case of Munich, the results are so immediate and tragic. But with time, tragic results came always. This is a very important lesson for contemporary Europe and for the entire world. I deeply believe that all of Europe aspires to the principles of pluralism, liberty, democracy and truth.9
He also spoke about Katyn: “Some say that the Katyń Massacre is a communist crime. No, in this case it is chauvinism not communism. We, the Poles, have the right to know the full truth with respect to matters tragic to our nation, and we must never give up this right.”10
Three weeks later, on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, the Polish Parliament adopted a resolution that defined Katyn as a crime of genocidal character.11 In response, Russia launched a cyber-attack on the Polish government.12
Early morning on April 10, 2010, an official Polish delegation for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn crime led by President Lech Kaczynski boarded the Polish Air Force One, flight 101 to Smolensk, Russia. The delegation consisted of the President and the First Lady, the entire Central Command of the Polish Armed Forces, representatives of the Polish Parliament and Government, as well as representatives of the families of the Katyn victims. The weather forecast was good.13
Shortly after 9 am, Polish media reported that the plane carrying the President of Poland and the official delegation for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn genocide crashed on approach to landing in Smolensk, Russia. All 96 people on board died. There were no survivors. Just hours later, the media reported that pilot error led to the crash. “It remains to be seen who exerted undue pressure on the pilot to land at any cost,” stated a message sent immediately after the crash to members of the Civic Platform led by Prime Minister Tusk, the party that stood in direct opposition to the Law and Justice Party of late President Kaczynski.14 This narrative implied the pressure from President Kaczynski on the pilots to land at any cost, thus indirectly blamed the President for causing the crash. Several months later, this unsubstantiated “pressure” hypothesis became the cornerstone of the Russian final report on the Smolensk crash.
Tomasz Turowski who acted as representative of Poland for the organization of the presidential visit in Katyn, Russia, on April 10, 2010, stated on the Russian radio two days after the crash: “from blood of Kaczynski better relations with Moscow will be born.” Recently, the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland determined that Turowski was a deep-cover communist intelligence agent who served as Jesuit priest in Vatican during the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981.15
Above : Communist spy Tomasz Turowski undercover as "Jesuit" (left), in Vatican with Pope John Paul II (right).  Turowski the "Diplomat" (center) with Poland's current president Bronislaw Komorowski (left), and Communist junta leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski (right). PHOTOS by  Gazeta,  dziennik.pl
To comprehend the context of the Smolensk tragedy it must be clarified that at the time of the crash the office of President of Poland was held by Lech Kaczynski from Law and Justice Party, while the office of Prime Minister, i.e. the head of the government, was held by Donald Tusk from Civic Platform. The Law and Justice of Lech Kaczynski stood in direct opposition to the Civic Platform of Donald Tusk on the subject of accountability for communist crimes. As a result of the Smolensk tragedy, the Civic Platform captured the office of President of Poland and all strategic offices held by members of the Law and Justice who were killed in the crash. This result was possible thanks to a massive media campaign that blamed late President Kaczynski and his party for causing the crash.16
According to Edmund Klich who served as Polish accredited representative to the Russian committee investigating the Smolensk crash, the Government of Donald Tusk gave him specific directives not to blame Russia for the crash. He further stated that some people had vested interest in putting the blame for the crash on the pilots.17 As a result, the Polish side, for all practical purposes, withdrew from the investigation.
On January 12, 2011, Russia announced results of its investigation of the Smolensk crash at an international press conference. In its findings, Russia not only placed the blame for the crash squarely on the Polish side but also brazenly attacked the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Air Force General Andrzej Blasik for being in the cockpit under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. The Russian report was based on the “pressure” hypothesis put forward immediately after the crash but expanded it by blaming not only President Lech Kaczynski but also “drunk” Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Air Force General Blasik for exerting undue pressure on the pilots to land.
According to families of the Smolensk victims, accusations against General Blasik resemble a shot to the back of the head of the Polish General, using media bullets.18
The pressure hypothesis with respect to General Blasik has been disproven in its entirety. The Polish Military Prosecutor’s Office unequivocally stated that General Blasik was not in the cockpit at the time of the crash and no alcohol was found in the blood of General Blasik or any members of the Polish crew. In fact, the records prove that no alcohol was ordered or delivered for this particular flight.
General Andrzej Błasik. PHOTO by blogmedia24.pl.
The accusation made by the Russians against late General Blasik was shockingly provocative. The allegation that the best Polish general entered the cockpit under the influence of alcohol and interfered with pilots’ duty in order to force the pilot to land was based on frivolous interpretation of the cockpit voice recorder and was quickly proven false beyond a reasonable doubt. Igor Mintusow who served as advisor for political marketing to the Russian investigative committee on the Smolensk crash admitted in an interview from January 2013 that with respect to reading of a cockpit voice recorder there was some room for interpretation. That “room for interpretation” was used to the advantage of Russia. Mintusow also admitted that a strategy of placing a drunk General Blasik in the cockpit at the time of the crash was aimed at diverting attention away from the Russian role in the crash.19
The consequences of the Smolensk catastrophe are enormous not only to Poland but also to the entire region and the world. In Smolensk, Russia eliminated the key Polish leaders and effectively paralyzed Poland. All top Polish generals instrumental in NATO structures perished instantly.20 The body of President Lech Kaczynski was desecrated,21 General Blasik, the Polish pilots and the Polish Armed Forces were dishonored in front of the entire world,22 the bodies of the victims were mistreated,23 and families of the victims were intimidated, some persecuted. The Government of Donald Tusk offered them no protection.24 The Russians blatantly violated all basic norms of any air crash investigation.25 Subsequently, the Government of Donald Tusk obediently accepted all Russian demands, including the resignation from NATO missile defense shield in Poland and the acceptance of a long-term energy agreement with the highest gas rates in the region.26
Russia humiliated Poland at every step of the Smolensk investigation and thereafter. Such total impunity in undermining Poland was possible only because the Government of Donald Tusk became her accomplice in crime. This flagrant and aggressive humiliation to which Putin subjected Poland in the aftermath of the Smolensk calamity is viewed as a part of Russia’s psychological warfare on Poland. Late President Kaczynski viewed the 1940 Katyn extermination as Russia’s retaliation for Poland regaining its independence in 1918. The Russian handling of the Smolensk tragedy clearly demonstrates a desire to humiliate the Polish state and the Polish nation, to intimidate Poland in her attempts to pay respect to the Katyn victims and preserve the memory of the Katyn genocide; to terrify and punish those who dared to oppose Russia in 1989 and thereafter.
According to Lilia Shevtsova, Putin demonstrates judo style politics once described by his coach as follow: “You have to hit first and whack down the opponent to scare the hell out of him, forcing him to accept your domination!” She notes that the Kremlin’s tactics against Ukraine are the same ones as the ones used against the Bolotnaya protesters in Russia: The government will use both psychological and physical terror to ensure dominance and guarantee obedience.27
Putin understands very well the power of national pride. He believes that Russia’s problem today is that the Russians have stopped being proud of their past, they stopped of being proud of Russianness. “When we were proud all was great,” he said at the Valdai International Discussion Club meeting in September 2013. Thus Putin’s search for greatness extends back in history even to Byzantine statehood.28 While he is on a mission to bust the pride of his own people, he takes unprecedented measures to humiliate others. Clearly, this strategy of strengthening self-confidence of the Russian people while psychologically devastating their neighbors represents the Putin strategy of modern warfare implemented so effectively in the Smolensk assassination.
By Maria Szonert Binienda
1. Attacking the celebration of the Polish Independence Day on November 11 by radical left riot groups from Germany was reported in the West as “anti-fascist groups tried to blockade the nationalists' march” See: “Poland Independence Day march turns violent,” BBC News Europe, November 11, 2012; http://bbc.in/1ztRMBT. Since 2010 Smolensk Crash, citizens of Warsaw who dare to celebrate Poland’s Independence Day are systematically attacked by far-left groups and portrayed by the media as fascist who must be stopped. Elzbieta Szonert, a 78 year old woman, was attacked by such a group at the 2012 march. She witnessed the provocation carried out by unidentified riot groups supported by the Tusk government forces. See: “Czy 11 listopada doszło do prowokacji?” November 15, 2012, niezalezna.pl, http://bit.ly/1ztRvPu, „Zaproszenie na Marsz Niepodległości - Jan Pospieszalski,” http://bit.ly/1ztRB9E, See also: http://bit.ly/1ztRD1o
2. For example a Plain Dealer article “University of Akron engineering professor raises doubts about jet crash that killed Poland's president,” of April 29, 2012, was the only US media publication on this subject till 2014. http://bit.ly/1ztRY48.
3. Timothy Snyder, “Nations, Empires, Unions, Integration and Disintegration,” February 8, 2014, http://bit.ly/1ztS5wD.
4. STATEMENT OF RUSSIA, UN General Assembly, March 24, 2014, Sixty-eighth General Assembly, Plenary 80th Meeting, A/RES/68/262. http://bit.ly/1ztSbnW. The Russian statement calling Maydan fighters as fascists and anti-Semites in connection with the annexation of Crimea was condemned in the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on March 27, 2014, on territorial integrity of Ukraine that calls upon the states not to recognize changes in status of Crimea Region. http://bit.ly/1ztSejF.
5. President Lech Kaczynski was instrumental in introducing a Decree dated September 19, 2007 voiding sentences imposed upon Polish citizens for resistance to the Soviet rule by the Communist-era courts. See: “Polish Underground Soldiers 1944-1963,” http://bit.ly/1ztSlvx
7. Adrian Blumfield, “Russia to Outlaw Criticism of WWII Tactics,” The Telegraph, March 5, 2009, http://bit.ly/1ztSAqu
8. According to the Russian report, search and rescue operations were conducted by Regional Services of the Ministry of Emergency. See: Par. 1.15, Russian Report on the crash of the Polish Air Force One in Smolensk, http://bit.ly/1ztSGyd
11. UCHWAŁA SEJMU RZECZYPOSPOLITEJ POLSKIEJ Z DNIA 23 WRZEŚNIA 2009 R. UPAMIĘTNIAJĄCA AGRESJĘ ZWIĄZKU RADZIECKIEGO NA POLSKĘ 17 WRZEŚNIA 1939 R. http://bit.ly/1ztTao5
12. Tomasz Pietryga, „Wrześniowy Cyberatak na Polskę,” Rzeczpospolita, October 11, 2009, http://bit.ly/1ztTi76
13. See: Statement of N. M., Soldier of 36 SPLT, Attachment 77, BIAŁA KSIĘGA SMOLEŃSKIEJ TRAGEDII, Zespól Parlamentarny ds. Zbadania Przyczyn Katastrofy Tu-154M z 10 kwietnia 2010r., Warszawa, (2011): „I did not provide to pkt. A. P. information on fog because I did not project any fog due to low humidity in this region.”
14. Gen. Petelicki who disclosed this message died soon thereafter on June 16, 2012 in unexplained circumstances. See: wPolityce.pl, June 17, 2012, http://bit.ly/1ztTqU1.
15. Piotr Baczek, „Rola Tomasza Turowskiego i służb specjalnych w trakcie organizacji wizyty Prezydenta RP w Katyniu 10,04,2010,” CZTERY LATA PO SMOLEŃSKU, Zespół Parlamentarny ds. Zbadania Przyczyn Katastrofy Tu-154M, Warszawa, ( 2014); http://bit.ly/1ztTy65 , See also: „April 10, 2010 Smoleńsk Crash Timeline; The Death of the President: Countdown to the Crash of Flight PLF 101,” Smolensk Crash News Digest; http://bit.ly/1jtE0FY.
16. Bronisław Komorowski from Civic Platform replaced late President Lech Kaczynski and appointed his candidates for top vacancy positions left by the victims of the Smolensk crash. See: http://bit.ly/1ztTFP7.
17. Statement of Edmund Klich dated April 15, 2012 made in the RFM FM radio interview after the release of so-called Klich tapes.
26. „Gowin chce informacji rządu ws. umowy gazowej z Rosją,” onet.pl, 13 stycznia 2012, http://bit.ly/1ztUmbb
27. Lilia Shevtsova, “Falling into Putin’s Trap,” The American Interest, March 10, 2014; http://bit.ly/1ztUuaB
28. Nina Khrushcheva, “Inside Vladimir Putin’s Mind: Looking Back in Anger,” World Affairs, July/August 2014.
2014 Report by Maria Szonert Binienda
Early morning on April 10, 2010, the Polish Governmental Airplane Tu-154M (“Polish Air Force One”) departed from Warsaw, Poland, to Smolensk, Russia, carrying on board the highest level delegation of the Republic of Poland for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre. The official delegation consisted of the President of Poland, First Lady, all members of the Central Command of the Polish Armed Forces, parliamentary, government and Church officials, and representatives of the families of the Katyn victims. Upon entering the airspace of the Military Airdrome “Severny” in Smolensk, Russia, the Polish pilot made one reconnaissance approach to landing. At the decision altitude, he chose not to land and issued a command to “go around.” Seconds later, the Polish Air Force One crashed. The entire Polish delegation of the highest level perished less than a mile from the Severny Airdrome in Smolensk, Russia. All 96 people on board were killed; there were no survivors ("Smolensk Crash").
Within minutes of the crash, the international media announced that pilot error led to the crash of the Polish Air Force One. This irresponsible rush to conclusion stands in contradiction to a well-known rule that whenever the head of state dies in a plane crash the probability of sabotage is increased. This principle was proclaimed, inter alia, in the Russian response to the investigation of the 1986 crash that killed President Samora Machel of Mozambique. The history teaches that when the head of state dies in the airplane crash, invariably the sabotage is involved. The history also teaches that initial investigations of high profile plane crashes tend to be conducted under undue political pressure. Transparent and impartial in-depth investigations are possible only years later.
On December 19, 2010, Poland, acting as the state of operator and registry and the state that suffered fatalities of unprecedented significance, submitted its comments to a draft of the Russian final report. The Remarks of the Republic of Poland to the draft final report of the Russian Federation (“Polish Response”) pointed to a number of factual errors, omissions, misrepresentations and false premises in the Russian report. The Polish side also complained about the lack of Russian cooperation in the investigation by pointing out that Russia did not respond at all to 169 out of 222 Polish inquiries for information. Most importantly, in its remarks the Polish side requested ‘the reformulation of causes and circumstance” of the Smolensk Crash.
Hundreds of samples taken from the Polish TU-154M wreckage indicated high probability of containing explosive content, including Hexogen, Penthrite (PETN) and TNT. It will be necessary to re-run laboratory tests, as these ordered by the Prosecutors’ Office were carried out in such a fashion as to detect nothing. We are disclosing shocking details of the opinion of eminent chemists who revealed egregious mistakes made by the Polish government’s experts.
A report from the analysis prepared by the Polish Police Central Forensic Laboratory (abbr. CLKP) for the Military Prosecutor's Office was provided to two eminent scientists who meticulously analyzed the available data presented in the report and prepared their own opinion on behalf of the families of the victims of the April 10, 2010 air crash.
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