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- Polish Military Intelligence was warned of a possible terrorist threat against one of the EU Member States' aircraft.
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- TNT after all
Military investigators on June 27th, 2013, claimed that previously detected TNT particles by devices discovered on the wreckage of the plane in Smolensk were not after analysis of an explosive material origne. However, military prosecutors admitted that an explosion could not be ruled out at this stage.
Before we go into the details of the military prosecution's press conference, let's have a quick look at the TNT chronology.
- 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. The 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. It is now known that in fact the samples that have been furhter analysed under laboratory conditions in Poland have been sent by Russian authorities two months after the initial visit of Polish experts.
- 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. Background information on TNT publication: here
- Presence of TNT confirmed by relative Stanislaw Zagrodzki - cousin of Ms Ewa Bakowska, victim of the crash - reveals that he had sent the personal belongings of the victim, including a safety belt from the TU-154 plane with which she was fastened, to two research centres in the U.S. According to Stanislaw Zagrodzki, the results confirmed the presence of TNT traces. more information: here
- On the 5th December, Military investigators admitted to Members of Parliament during a sitting of the Justice Committee that detectors traced TNT in the wreckage of the plane. more information: TNT after all
- On April 22, 2013, in reference to an article published in the weekly newsmagazine “Do Rzeczy”, the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office issued an official written statement admitting that in addition to TNT, devices used in Smolensk on the wreckage of the plane detected nitro compounds, octogen (HMX) and hexogen (RDX). more information: More than TNT
- Military Prosecution does not rule out possibility of a terrorist attack in Smolensk. Jerzy Artymiak, the Chief Military Prosecutor has stated that the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office has not ruled out the possibility of third party deliberate involvement in Smolensk - a case still being investigated by Polish prosecutors. more information: here
On Thursday June 27th 2013, Military Prosecutors held a long awaited press conference. The press conference was to deal once and for all with the TNT issue; unfortunately the conference raised more questions and controversies, than it provided answers - causing an even bigger stir than could have been anticipated. For example the press conference did not incorporate results of samples taken from the victims' remains, as it was previously declared. So we will in most probability all have to wait a further 6 months for a follow up conference - if any, to learn more.
The biggest controversy in the first instance is undoubtedly the fact than once again, as it has been in previous cases, the prosecution did not reveal their findings to family members of the victims first, who are being ignored and have long been forgotten - by the government and the investigators. Once again it is from the press that most families learn of developments in the investigation. Several family members attended the press conference personally, as means to confront the prosecutors; who on the day refused to answer the family members questions, telling them specifically they lacked journalist accreditations.
"This is an outrage. We are not being informed of anything, not by investigators, not by the government, and we are not allowed to ask questions." - said Andrzej Melak, brother of victim Stefan Melak former President of the Katyn Committee (Komitet Katyński)
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. The 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. It is now known that in fact the samples that have been analysed under laboratory conditions in Poland have been sent to Poland by Russian authorities two months after the initial visit of Polish experts. (Thus, it is the latter that have been analysed and were the subject of the press conference mentioned below).
During the long awaited press conference the military investigators claimed that, after laboratory analysis, previously detected particles on the wreckage of the plane could not be attributed to explosive materials. However, military prosecutors admitted that an explosion could not be ruled out at this stage and they did not specify the origin of the previously discovered TNT compounds - only to state they were not explosive materials.
Once again: the point put across by military investigators was as follows: Devises used in Smolensk, by Polish investigators in fact detected TNT, nitro compounds, octogen (HMX) and hexogen (RDX), however the display of "TNT" on the display screens of the devises used is not equivalent to the presence of explosive materials; additionally, laboratory analysis excluded presence of explosive materials. Proesectuors also went on to say that previously detected TNT particles by the devises used in Smolensk are not and can not be binding. The prosecution stated at the same time that the possibility of an explosion could still not be ruled out...
However, strange, difficult to understand, far-fetched may be the logic behind such reasoning - nevertheless, it is what the prosecution did not hesitate to state to the Polish and international public.
If according to the prosecution previously discovered particles by the detectors in Smolensk were not due to explosive materials, this would mean that all devices used in Smolensk pointed erroneously to TNT. This would mean that the devises taken to and in Smolensk mistakenly/erroneously pointed to explosive materials on more than 200 samples (!), as a total of 258 samples have been sent to Poland and analysed further. Now we are told previous displays on devises pointing to TNT used in Smolensk are not due to explosive materials, after further analysis of collected samples once in Poland.
The prosecutions stated that to exclude an explosion further samples from the remains of the victims had to still be analysed - which would mean further press conferences in the future.
The prosecution further admitted they only based their statements on the conclusions of a report - and not the full opinion, to cut some speculation. There is yet no full and final opinion on the possibility of an explosion.
Maj. Robert Terela, a former pyrotechnic with the Governmental Protection Bureau commented saying: "The devises used are very accurate and very good. I worked on these devices and they never pointed to erroneous results. If used properly, under appropriate conditions and according to established methods the devises used in Smolensk should have never given erroneous results" - Terela said.
A similar opinion in an interview with Cezary Gmyz was expressed by Dr. Jan Bokszczanin, who is a manufacturer of such equipment for the detection of explosive substances, said "In factual conditions [...] if the device indicated the presence of TNT particles, the possibility that they were anything else are zero. I cannot accept a thesis, that if the devices indicated a concentration of TNT, that the detected substance could be anything else but TNT traces". He highlighted that the unit could be in fact ‘blocked’, but in such case the devices wouldn't indicate anything. Bokszczanin said also that the device is being used by at least 60 countries, and if its indications were to be imprecise or misleading ‘it would not be purchased in the first place.'
At the press conference, unfortunately, no experts were present to whom journalists could direct more precise questions. Meanwhile, the message from the press conference circulated the world.
Shortly after the crash (specifically on the night of 10th-11th April) Col. Ireneusz Szeląg who was in Smolensk, signed a Polish-Russian document, according to which the investigators of the two countries pledged to investigate: the bad condition and state of the plane, bad weather and possible "improper actions of the crew and airport ground staff." From this document, described repeatedly in the media, it is known that the Polish party accepted the Russian position without any hesitation - not to investigate the hypotheses of a terrorist attack or deliberate third party action.