It’s been three-and-a-half years since the Polish president’s plane crashed near Smolensk, western Russia, killing all 96 aboard, but the wound to the nation’s collective psyche refuses to heal. In recent weeks, the debate about the disaster has grown even more bitter, due to a series of comic (however inappropriate the word may sound in reference to a national trauma) gaffes and conflicting pronouncements made by a group of opposition-linked experts probing the causes of the disaster.
Jacek Rońda, a leading figure among the group of experts with links to the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), the country’s second largest political party—has publicly admitted to lying in an television interview. Sporting a satisfied smile on his face and barely batting an eyelid, Rońda, a professor, revealed that, when talking about the plane crash to a prominent journalist recently, he had been “bluffing” when he claimed he possessed a document that supposedly contained sensational disclosures about the altitude at which the presidential plane was flying while attempting to land at Smolensk airport.
Earlier Rońda had insisted that he was qualified to evaluate aviation accidents because for many years he had been a Diamond Card frequent flyer with the KLM airline. Another expert from the group probing the crash—which is led by Antoni Macierewicz, a deputy in the lower house of Poland’s parliament and a senior figure in PiS—when asked about his qualifications to investigate the disaster, said he used to make plastic model airplanes as a child.
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(Fragments of TU-154 the Polish president at the crash site in Smolensk. Photo: Serge Serebro/Vitebsk Popular News)