Sunday 19 November 2017

Leader's twin to decide on his future

Roger Boyes

PRESIDENT Lech Kaczynski rang his brother Jaroslaw from the cabin of his official Tupolev 154 jet. "It's all going according to plan," he said. "We'll be landing in a few minutes."

A little over 30 minutes later, at 8.56am, the aircraft crashed in Smolensk. None of the 96 passengers and crew survived.

Jaroslaw, the older of the twins by 45 seconds, has been wrenched out of one of Europe's strangest political partnerships. Now he has to decide whether to continue their work by standing for the now-vacant presidency.

He was told of the crash soon after that last call. The Foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski, phoned saying: "I have terrible news for you."

Within hours, Jaroslaw Kaczynski was on his way to Russia with the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, to identify the body. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin asked if he could go along as well; Mr Kaczynski declined.

Grief

The depth of Mr Kaczynski's grief was all too evident when the body of the president arrived in Warsaw. He kneeled, kissed the casket and seemed to be whispering to his dead brother.

From today the president will lie in state and the body of his wife should have arrived. He will be buried on Saturday.

All 96 coffins will be laid out in Pilsudski Square in Warsaw and what is left of the presidential protocol team is inviting at least two dozen heads of state, including the Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, to attend. This will not be a simple funeral but a two-day event in which Poles take stock of the future. (© The Times, London)

Irish Independent

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