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The Smolensk air disaster investigation takes over, the exhumations continue

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By Olivier Bault.

Russia, Smolensk – There are now eight bodies of which it is known that they had not been put in the coffin that was assigned to them and that had arrived leaden in Poland with prohibition to the families to have them open. Exhumations are under way in Poland as part of the resumption of the investigation into the Smolensk tragedy where President Lech Kaczyński was killed with his wife and many other personalities (88 passengers in total, plus 8 members of the crew) on April the 10th, 2010. These exhumations and the accompanying autopsies will concern all victims except nine whose bodies had already been exhumed under the government of Donald Tusk because of the obvious errors in the Russian autopsy reports which suggested that the bodies could have been interchanged. Of the nine, six bodies had proved not to be the ones we thought.

The current exhumations are intended to establish the real causes of the disaster as there was no real Polish inquiry, the official report of Donald Tusk’s government (“Miller Report”) being satisfied with taking up large parts of the Russian report and relying exclusively on the evidence and findings provided by the Russian investigators for its own conclusions. No autopsies of the victims of the Smolensk tragedy had been carried out by Polish forensic doctors on the arrival of the bodies in Poland and the Polish forensic doctors had not taken part in the autopsies carried out in Moscow either.

And it was on Thursday from the Polish prosecution that the exhumation of the body of Piotr Nurowski, the former president of the Polish Olympic Committee, made it clear that this body was not his own, even if one is still waiting for the results of the genetic analyzes to be absolutely certain. The family of Piotr Nurowski had opposed this exhumation, considering that doing the autopsies of the victims now would bring nothing new. With the six that were already known, and that of Piotr Nurowski and the victim in his coffin, whose identity was established by genetic analysis, 8 bodies were interchanged for 16 autopsies – the nine realized in 2011-2012 and the seven carried out or underway since November 2016, including autopsies of the bodies of the presidential couple.

This does not prevent the Donald Tusk Civic Platform (PO) and the media who support it from accusing the PiS government of merely seeking, through these late autopsies, to reinforce what the opposition calls “conspiracy theory”. But for Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, the purpose of these exhumations is to “put an end to this situation of uncertainty once and for all … with regard to the bodies buried and the unfolding of the Smolensk drama” .

It is clear that if Donald Tusk’s government had done its work in 2010, all the bodies would have been autopsied on their arrival in Poland and the government of Beata Szydło would not need to carry out all these exhumations today.