Russian air controllers charged for Polish presidential jet disaster

The Tupolev Tu-154 went down in thick fog in 2010 while approaching Smolensk airport in western Russia, killing 96 people, including then president Lech Kaczynski (AFP Photo/Natalia Kolesnikova)

Warsaw (AFP) - Pilot error was to blame for the 2010 crash of a Polish presidential jet in Russia, but two Russian air traffic controllers also triggered the disaster that killed Poland's then head of state, prosecutors in Warsaw said Friday.

The aircraft went down in thick fog while approaching Smolensk airport in western Russia killing 96, including then president Lech Kaczynski, his wife, the central bank head and military chief of staff among others.

One of the Russian controllers charged with "being directly responsible for having endangered air traffic... while the other is charged with unintentionally causing an air traffic disaster," Warsaw's chief military prosecutor Ireneusz Szelag told reporters.

He said Poland would take steps to bring the two unnamed Russian citizens to justice, but declined to provide any further details.

The prosecutor presented a minute-by-minute expert analysis of the events leading up to the crash, regarded as Poland's worst peacetime disaster.

Russia has so far refused to hand over the plane's wreckage to Polish authorities, insisting its investigation into the disaster is ongoing.

Warsaw has extended its investigation until October 10.

Many high-profile Poles died when the Russian-made Tupolev Tu-154 airliner went down in thick fog April 10, 2010, while approaching Smolensk airport in western Russia.

The delegation was en route to memorial ceremonies in Katyn for thousands of Polish army officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940, a massacre the Kremlin denied until 1990.

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