Explosives Found in Wreckage of Polish Plane Wreck [UPDATE: No Explosives After All]

Two years ago, Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others were killed in a plane crash in Russia. A new report has "traces of explosives" in the debris.

Two years ago, Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others were killed in a plane crash in Russia. A new report has “traces of explosives” in the debris.

Reuters (“Poland found explosives on wreckage of president’s plane-report“):

Polish investigators found traces of explosives on the wreckage of the government jet that crashed in Russia two years ago, killing Poland’s president and 95 others, daily Rzeczpospolita reported on Tuesday.

Without citing sources, the newspaper said prosecutors and explosive experts who examined the remains of the plane in Russia found signs of TNT and nitroglycerin on the wings and in the cabin, including on 30 seats.

Traces of explosives were also found in the area where the Tu-154 crashed during its approach to a small airport near the Russian city of Smolensk on April 10, 2010, the daily reported.

Poland’s military prosecutor’s office plans to respond to the report later on Tuesday, its spokesman said.

Russian investigators had blamed the Polish crew for trying to land in heavy fog, while their Polish counterparts also said the airport controllers should not have allowed the plane to attempt an approach.

Some rightist groups in Poland, including main opposition party Law and Justice, had rejected the findings and suggested the crash could have been an assassination of President Lech Kaczynski and political and military leaders who flew with him.

In their official reports, investigators said they found no proof of the involvement of third parties.

The investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the traces of explosives come from unexploded bombs dating back to World War Two that could have remained in the area where the aircraft came down, the newspaper said.

This raises more questions than answers.

The crash killed dozens of young Polish leaders and was a national tragedy. But it had the positive impact of helping heal some decades-old wounds in the Russia-Polish relationship, as a lot of goodwill was built by the Putin-Medvedev government in their handling of the aftermath. Of there’s credible evidence that the crash was the result of sabotage, whether perpetrated by Russia or Polish opposition agents—and we’re far from that at this stage—it would be a game changer.

UPDATE: Max Fisher passes along this from AP (“Poland: No explosives found on Polish plane wreck“):

Polish military prosecutors on Tuesday denied a newspaper report that said investigators had found traces of explosives in the 2010 plane crash in Russia which killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.

Ireneusz Szelag, a spokesman for military prosecutors, said experts who examined the wreckage in recent weeks in Russia detected no explosives on plane parts or at the site of the crash. He said, however, that some chemical substances were found on parts of the wreckage that will be submitted for laboratory tests. It will take months to name those substances, he said.

“It isn’t true that tests have revealed traces of trotyl and nitroglycerin on and inside the wreckage,” Szelag told reporters.

The Rzeczpospolita daily later said on its website that it “made a mistake” writing about those two chemicals.

So, we either have some sloppy reporting from Rzeczpospolita or a massive cover-up on part of the Polish government. I’m going to go with the former absent compelling evidence.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    If it was an explosion that brought down the plane, that would have been very evident from the wreckage. I really doubt that was what happened, and there has to be an explanation for the traces of TNT.

  2. Barfour says:

    If the crash was as a result of sabotage, it will likely never be proven and even if sabotage were ever to be proven, those behind it will never be caught. Anyone with the ability and access to sabotage a plane carrying the president of Poland definitely knows how to cover their tracks.

  3. Tylerh says:

    DC Loser is right: an explosion would have been immediately obvious to the crash investigators.

    More likely: scenario: The security detail for that passenger list would have been, um, enhanced. I wouldn’t be surprised if the security heads decided to pack some extra firepower — just in case.

  4. rudderpedals says:

    IIRC there was evidence from on and offboard recorders that on this approach the pilot blew through the minimum descent alt trying to “feel” for the runway he never saw.