Poland has exhumed the remains of former president Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria Kaczynska to examine the circumstances surrounding their deaths in a 2010 plane crash.
The exhumation took place on Monday on orders from the prosecutors investigating the crash, which took place as the aircraft carrying the former Polish head of state and a top-ranking delegation was landing amid heavy fog in the Russian city of Smolensk.
Official investigations conducted by the previous Polish government and Russia found the crash to be an accident. They stated that the aircraft went down in dense fog just short of landing. However, supporters of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party have been pursuing a conspiracy theory.
Prosecutors have sounded doubts about the “accuracy” and “reliability” of the autopsies carried out by Russia in the past.
For years, Jarosław Kaczyński, the former president’s twin brother and the leader of the ruling party has been insisting that the air disaster was engineered by Russia.
Kaczynski has also been implicating Poland’s prime minister at the time, Donald Tusk, who is now occupying the seat of the President of the European Council.
The allegations have caused tensions in relations with Russia.
Earlier in November, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz asked a committee of experts to form a group to further investigate the crash. He alleges that the plane probably disintegrated meters above the ground before impact and that there seem to be traces of explosives on the remaining plane parts.
The Kremlin has dismissed all allegations of its involvement as “unfounded and biased.” Russia has said the wreckage and flight recorders cannot be handed over until its own criminal investigation is complete.
Macierewicz claims that Russia’s refusal fuels suspicions of wrongdoing.
These are the first of more than 80 exhumations to be conducted in the probe. The plan has raised much controversy inside Poland. Many families are opposed to it, while others want to make sure whether Russian investigators were negligent in identifying the victims.
95 people were killed when their plane crashed during landing outside the western Russian city of Smolensk on April 10, 2012. They were heading to the city to commemorate a Soviet-ordered massacre of thousands of members of Polish military and political figures in the Katyn Forest in 1940.
The delegation on board consisted of government members, lawmakers, military commanders and the relatives of officers murdered in the wartime massacre.
The remains of Lech Kaczynski and his wife are expected to be interred again at a crypt in Krakow cathedral later in November.