The 2010 Katyń Families Association

On October 30, Rzeczpospolita daily ran its front page article suggesting that traces of TNT and nitro-glycerine had been discovered on the debris of the presidential plane that crashed in Smolensk.

The news has spread

On October 30, Polish leading daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita ran its front page article - without citing sources, but based on testimonies leaked from the prosecution - suggesting that traces of TNT and nitro-glycerine had been discovered on the debris of the Polish presidential plane that crashed in Russia in 2010, killing all 96 passengers on board including Polish President Lech Kaczynski. Author Cezary Gmyz cited no less than four unnamed sources alleging traces of TNT and nitrogylcerine had been detected.


Rzeczpospolita said that prosecutors and explosive experts who examined the remains of the plane in Russia, using the most technically advanced equipment found signs of TNT and nitro-glycerine on the wings and in the cabin, including on 30 seats. The substances were also found on the area linking the fuselage with the wing.


A group of 11 individuals worked in Smolensk from September 17 to October 12, including a prosecutor from the Warsaw prosecutor's office, bomb experts and plane construction specialists. The experts have been investigating the wreckage of Tu-154 for the last month, after Polish prosecutors expressed doubts regarding the Russian specialists' analysis of the pyrotechnics. The analysis delivered by the Russians did not meet some procedural requirements, the newspaper reports, which is why a team of Polish experts – including specialists from the Central Forensic Laboratory and the Central Bureau of Investigation – was sent to Smolensk to carry out its own detailed investigation.


The article's allegation was supported by Poland’s Prosecutor General Andrzej Seremet. The prosecutors notified the attorney general on the discovery, who, in turn, notified Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Since it publication the article has given raise to much concern on both sides of the debate and it has been revealed that Poland’s attorney general and Prime Minister Donald Tusk have had a chance to meet together to decide over steps be taken next.


Prosecution denies

In the afternoon, on the day of the publication, in a much awaited press conference, Polish military prosecutors indirectly were able to deny the claims made by Rzeczpospolita in its morning article.


The chief of the military prosecutor’s office in Warsaw, col. Ireniusz Szelag, told a news conference on Tuesday, that an investigative team had returned with numerous samples, after on-site detectors had alerted the team to the presence of substances with similar structures to "high-energy" compounds which can appear in certain explosives, but ultimately, denied that experts who examined the wreckage in Russia detected explosives on the planes parts or at the site of the crash. He admitted however, that some chemical substances were found on parts of the wreckage but it was still too early to identify their nature. The state prosecutor could not rule out the presence of traces of explosives because of the use of ionised components in planes which are present in high-energy materials [like fuel] as well as in explosives. Chemical substances of a structure similar to high-energy materials like explosive materials have been found but they could be from various sources.” Mr Szeląg added that tests were ongoing and that it could take “a couple of months” before his office could categorically rule out any traces of explosives on the plane wreckage. “These could be the ingredients of TNT and nitro-glycerine, but they do not have to be,” “We will have to wait for half a year of laboratory tests until we see if they are explosives.” The equipment sometimes reacts to pesticides, solvents and even some sorts of modern cosmetics,” Ireneusz Szelag told reporters.

Subsequently, Polish authorities moved quickly to play down reports of TNT and nitro-glycerine as “absolutely unwarranted conclusions” on fractional and preliminary evidence, but not before the report drew commentary from across the political spectrum.


Later in the day, the newspaper, Rzeczpospolita, published a rectification online, in which it defended its report, without recalling its article, saying that the findings about the chemical traces were made public too soon without citing clear sources, and based only on testimonies leaked from the prosecution. In its later statement, Rzeczpospolita said that while the chemicals that were detected might be TNT and nitro-glycerine, they didn't necessarily have to be. The paper defended its report, saying that “in the context of the multiplying conspiracy theories, the delay and hoarding of such important information is incomprehensible.”


It can be concluded that we are witnesses to either sloppy reporting from Rzeczpospolita or a massive cover-up on part of the Polish government.



In the aftermath of the publication, the publisher and owner of the daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita Grzegorz Hajdarowicz, fired investigative journalist Cezary Gmyza, author of the article entitled "TNT on the Tupolev wreckage", as well the daily's editor-in-chief Tomasz Wroblewski, his deputy and the papers head of the national department. Further surprising is the dismissal of the deputy editor-in-chief who was on leave at the time and hence was not involved in the preparation or publication of the article.


Concern has been raised by information where political pressure has been exerted by the ruling party on the owner and publisher of the Rzeczpospolita daily regarding the dismissals.


The freedom to provide and receive information without interference by public authorities is an essential element of democracy. The dismissal of the group of editors in such circumstances is a worrying example of limitations on the freedom of expression and strongly contributes to a deteriorating situation of the media in Poland.




In late January, the Prague District Prosecutor's Office said the flight security level did not comply with the rules then set forth by the Government Protection Bureau. Experts revealed that the individuals responsible for organizing Kaczynski's visit to Smolensk committed a number of violations that adversely affected the security of Poland's highest military and civilian leaders.


The doomed presidential delegation had been bound for a memorial ceremony in Katyn, near Smolensk, for thousands of Polish army officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940, a massacre denied by the Kremlin until 1990.


from sources: Reuters, AFP, AP, BBC

Fot. Sławomir Kamiński / Agencja Gazeta