November 10, 2015 / 5:23 PM / 2 years ago

Poland to sue Russia over withholding 2010 plane crash wreckage

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will sue Russia in a human rights court over Moscow’s withholding of the wreckage of a Polish jet that crashed in thick fog over Russia in 2010 killing the Polish president, the country’s foreign minister-designate said.

Soldiers carry the coffin of late Polish President Lech Kaczynski in front of the President's Palace in Warsaw April 17, 2010. REUTERS/Petr Josek

Russia has so far declined to return wreckage, arguing it first needed to conclude its own inquiry. The decision by a new more nationalist Polish government to press the matter could add to tensions already stirred by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and subsequent EU sanctions against Moscow.

“We will be suing the Russian investigation in Strasbourg for dragging its feet,” Witold Waszczykowski told TVN24 broadcaster, referring to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

“We will sue Russia in arbitration tribunals over withholding Polish property ... so that we get Russia convicted and ordered to give us back the property,” he said.

A Polish government investigation blamed pilot error and the airport crew for the April 10, 2010 crash.

The crash, in Smolensk, western Russia, killed 96 people, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, the central bank governor, top army commanders and other high-ranking officials.

Kaczynski’s identical twin brother Jaroslaw now heads the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which won an outright majority in both chambers of parliament in an October election.

Poland’s defense minister-designate Antoni Macierewicz believes an explosion caused the 2010 presidential jet crash.

The 2010 crash happened as the president and his entourage were on their way to a ceremony to commemorate the Katyn massacre, when the Soviet Union’s secret police killed thousands of Polish officers in a forest in western Russia in 1940.

Reporting by Marcin Goettig; editing by Ralph Boulton

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