Saturday, April 10, 2010

Breaking News: Crash Kills Polish President

The President of Poland is dead this morning at the age of 60, the victim of an apparent air disaster in Russia.

President Lech Kaczyński, his wife, and 95 other government officials were killed when the presidential plane crashed on approach at Smolensk-North Airport in Russia. The President was en route to a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre. The crash has devastated the Polish military and other parts of the government although, apparently, the government continues to function. The President of Poland's powers are, according to USA Today, more symbolic than one might assume.

Kaczyński was a key pro-democracy figure in communist Poland and has been a leader in the new Polish Government. He was a former lawmaker and adviser to former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.

He also caused some controversy in 2003 when, as Mayor of Warsaw, he banned the Parada Równości, a gay rights parade, citing lack of appropriate documentation from the organizers but also saying that it would promote homosexuality. The 2004 Parada Równości was also affected. Kaczyński's actions were condemned widely inside and outside of Poland. Since 2005, an equality parade has occurred promoting equality for the LGBT community in Poland.

An outpouring of grief and support for the Polish people has come from many world leaders. President Barack Obama telephoned Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and expressed condolences. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kaczynski family, the loved ones of those killed in this tragic plane crash, and the Polish nation," Obama said. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged an investigation into the crash while also expressing his condolences to Tusk. Internet reports say that former Russian President Vladimir Putin will lead the investigation.

According to internet sources, there is no presidential line of succession in Poland. Instead, an Acting President has been appointed previously. With the death of Kaczyński, Bronisław Komorowski is the Acting President of Poland.

Kaczyński and his wife are survived by one daughter.