Polish leader's jet likely exploded just before 2010 crash - commission

WARSAW, April 10 (Reuters) - The plane that crashed and killed Poland's president and 95 others in 2010 probably disintegrated in mid-air when explosives were detonated on board, a Polish government commission said on Monday.

"Much indicates that on Apr. 10, 2010, an explosion took place on board of the government Tupolev plane," said the commentary accompanying video material presented by the commission on Monday.

"As a result of the conducted experiments, we can say that the most likely cause of the explosion was a thermobaric charge initiating a strong shockwave."

The new commission presented its preliminary findings on the seventh anniversary of the catastrophe in western Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, top army brass and several lawmakers.

It repeated allegations, first made in Warsaw a week ago, that Russian air traffic controllers had deliberately set the plane on the wrong descent path. Polish prosecutors said then they would press charges against two controllers, while Moscow rejected the allegations.

An earlier commission created by the previous centrist government blamed mistakes by the Polish pilots and Russian air traffic controllers for the crash. A Russian report put the blame squarely on the Poles.

The current government of the right-wing Law and Justice party last month accused European Council President Donald Tusk of working with Russia's Vladimir Putin to harm Polish interests following the plane crash. Tusk was Polish prime minister at the time.

The new investigatory commission created by Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said on Monday that a blast most likely tore the plane into pieces, killing all 96 people seconds before it hit the ground.

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2010 plane crash that killed Poland's president and 95 others
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2010 plane crash that killed Poland's president and 95 others
Image from video footage shows firefighters working to extinguish the flames near the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft after it crashed near Smolensk airport in western Russia April 10, 2010. Polish President Lech Kaczynski was killed when the plane carrying 132 people crashed in thick fog on its approach to the Russian airport on Saturday, killing everyone on board, officials said. REUTERS/TVP via Reuters TV (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT) POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
Image from video footage shows the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft after it crashed near Smolensk airport in western Russia April 10, 2010. Polish President Lech Kaczynski was killed when the plane carrying 132 people crashed in thick fog on its approach to the Russian airport on Saturday, killing everyone on board, officials said. REUTERS/TVP via Reuters TV (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT) POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
An Interior Ministry officer stands guard near the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft that crashed near Smolensk airport April 10, 2010. Pilot error was a possible reason for the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and central bank governor Slawomir Skrzypek on Saturday, a spokesman for the Smolensk local government said. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT POLITICS)
A November 5, 2008 file photo shows the Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft carrying Poland's President Lech Kaczynski as he arrives for an official visit at Ljubljana's airport in Slovenia. There were no survivors in the crash of a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft carrying Kaczynski in Russia, the local governor of the Smolensk region where the crash took place said on April 10, 2010. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/Files (SLOVENIA - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER TRANSPORT)
A July 17, 2007 file photo shows Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria waving at the door of Air Force One at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. There were no survivors in the crash of the plane carrying Kaczynski and his wife Maria in Russia on April 10, 2010, Polish state news agency PAP reported, quoting local officials in Smolensk. The Polish central bank governor Slawomir Skrzypek was also on board the plane, the bank's press office told Reuters. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
An Interior Ministry officer stands guard near a part of the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft that crashed near Smolensk airport April 10, 2010. Poland's President Lech Kaczynski, its central bank head and the country's military chief were among 96 people killed when their plane crashed in thick fog on its approach to a Russian airport on Saturday. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT POLITICS)
Emergencies Ministry members and firefighters work at the site of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft crash in Smolensk April 10, 2010. Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, its central bank head and the country's military chief, were among 97 people killed when their plane crashed in thick fog on its approach to a Russian airport on Saturday. REUTERS/Stringer (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT POLITICS)
People gather in front the Presidential Palace in Warsaw to pay respect to Polish President Lech Kaczynski who died in a plane crash April 10, 2010. Kaczynski, its central bank head and the country's military chief were among 96 people killed when their plane crashed in thick fog on its approach to a Russian airport on Saturday. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel (POLAND - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER TRANSPORT OBITUARY)
People gather in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw to pay their respects for late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, April 10, 2010. Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, its central bank head and the country's military chief, were among 97 people killed when their plane crashed in thick fog on its approach to a Russian airport on Saturday. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel (POLAND - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER TRANSPORT OBITUARY)
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) comforts his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk as they visit the site of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft crash near Smolensk airport April 10, 2010. Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, its central bank head and the country's military chief, were among 97 people killed when their plane crashed in thick fog on its approach to a Russian airport on Saturday. BLACK AND WHITE ONLY REUTERS/CIR/Grzegorz Roginski (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER TRANSPORT OBITUARY)
People attend a church service for late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria in Krakow April 11, 2010. Poles were in deep mourning on Sunday after Kaczynski and many of the country's ruling elite were killed in a plane crash. REUTERS/Agencja Gazeta/Michal Lepecki (POLAND - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER TRANSPORT OBITUARY) POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
A Russian serviceman stands guard near part of the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft that crashed near Smolensk airport April 11, 2010. Polish President Lech Kaczynski's coffin returned home to a stunned nation on Sunday, a day after he and much of the country's political and military elite perished in the plane crash in Russia. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT POLITICS)
Emergencies Ministry members work at the site of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft crash in Smolensk April 11, 2010. Polish President Lech Kaczynski's coffin returned home to a stunned nation on Sunday, a day after he and much of the country's political and military elite perished in the plane crash in Russia. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT POLITICS)
Russian serviceman stands guard near part of the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft that crashed near Smolensk airport April 11, 2010. Polish President Lech Kaczynski's coffin returned home to a stunned nation on Sunday, a day after he and much of the country's political and military elite perished in the plane crash in Russia. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA)
People gather and light candles in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw April 12, 2010. President Lech Kaczynski's coffin returned home to a stunned nation on Sunday, after he and much of the country's political and military elite perished in a plane crash in Russia. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel(POLAND - Tags: POLITICS TRANSPORT DISASTER)
A man observes a poster with the names of the victims of Saturday's Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 plane crash in Warsaw April 12, 2010. Polish President Lech Kaczynski's coffin returned home to a stunned nation on Sunday, a day after he and much of the country's political and military elite perished in a plane crash in Russia. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (POLAND - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS DISASTER OBITUARY IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Experts investigate the wreckage at the site of the Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft crash in Smolensk, April 13, 2010. Officials said a memorial service for all 96 victims of the crash would be held on Saturday and that a state funeral for Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria could take place either on the same day or on Sunday. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT)
Workers prepare a stage for a commemoration ceremony for victims of the plane crash at Pilsudski square in Warsaw April 16, 2010. President Lech Kaczynski's family does not want to delay Sunday's funeral despite a cloud of volcanic ash spreading across Europe that has forced the closure of many airports, a presidential aide said on Friday. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (POLAND - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER TRANSPORT)
Flight recorders from the crashed TU-154 Polish government plane are seen at a laboratory of the Intergovernmental Aircraft Committee in Moscow May 19, 2010. Russian aviation officials said on Wednesday that at least two non-crew members were in the cockpit of the plane before the crash that killed all 96 on board, including President Lech Kaczynski and his wife. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin (RUSSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT)
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The crash took place as pilots attempted to land a Soviet-made TU-154 at a rarely used airport near Smolensk to take part in commemorations of thousands of Polish officers executed there by Soviet secret police in 1940.

The commission report said that as well as large pieces of wreckage, there was a multitude of smaller fragments, a fact that could be explained by an explosion.

Russia has so far refused to return the wreckage of the jet to Poland, a member of NATO and the European Union, citing its own continuing investigation.

The commission also said that at least four victims of the crash had significant burns on their bodies, although they were found away from flames on the crash site.

One of the plane doors penetrated the ground to a depth of one meter, suggesting it had been traveling 10 times faster than the plane's speed, it said.

The commission said it had ordered a reconstruction of part of the TU-154 plane and blown it up with a thermobaric charge, adding that the damage resembled that done in the Russian crash.

Polish prosecutors last year ordered the coffins of crash victims to be reopened to check for traces of explosives. This process will continue until next year, prosecutors said earlier this month.

The commission's findings are likely to worsen relations with Moscow - already strained over the conflict in Ukraine - and increase domestic political tensions in Poland.

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