Polish Official Says Putin Responsible for Plane Crash That Killed President

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Warsaw, Poland (AP) -- Poland's defense minister said Thursday that a plane crash that killed the nation's president in 2010 in Russia was preceded by two explosions on board, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to "take responsibility for what happened."

Antoni Macierewicz was reacting to words by Putin, who denied any explosions took place on board and urged Poland to stop investigating for any potential Russian role in the crash. Poland's President Lech Kaczynski, the first lady and 94 others were killed when the plane crashed on approach to airport in Smolensk, western Russia.

Macierewicz heads a commission re-investigating the crash and alleges it was preceded by two explosions, which, he says, would suggest that Russia played a role.

Earlier, commissions of Polish and Russian aviation experts concluded that the crash was an accident caused by errors made by the crew, who tried to land at a rudimentary military airport in dense fog. Polish experts also blamed faulty guidance by Russian flight controllers.

The new investigation was ordered by Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, headed by the late president's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. He still wears black in a sign of mourning and rallies voters around the idea that the crash resulted from foul play.

Putin had mentioned the case earlier in the day at his annual press conference, citing experts who made no mention of any explosions on board. He accused Polish politicians of trying to boost their popularity by renewing disputes around the crash.

"Russian-Polish relations are more important than current political infighting in Poland," Putin said. "Do turn this page, grow up!"

But in an interview on Polish Radio 24, Macierewicz insisted there are records of two explosions, and that Putin "should have the courage to take responsibility for what happened."

He said Russia is blocking the truth by refusing to return the plane's wreckage, its black boxes and "all navigation instruments."

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