The "White Book" of the Smolensk Tragedy
Antoni Macierewicz, Polish MP
Wieslawa Lewandowska talks to Antoni Macierewicz, Polish MP, head of the Parliamentary Team in charge of investigating the cause of the plane crash in Smolensk, Russia.
Wieslawa Lewandowska: The publication of the ‘White Book of the Smolensk Tragedy’ coincided with the announcement of the presentation of the governmental report concerning the Smolensk plane crash. Why is the Parliamentary Team [...] presenting this document at this very moment?
Antoni Macierewicz: – This document was ready to be published two weeks ago. However, we thought that some matters should be written more precisely and we had to postpone the presentation of the document. Our document has nothing to do with the announced, but kept postponing, report of Minister Jerzy Miller. And the only reason for the publication of our document is that the public opinion has the right to know the reliable factographic knowledge of the Smolensk plane crash.
WL – Does the ‘White Book’ give it?
AM – Yes, it does. Our White Book is not a report; it does not evaluate and solve all the problems connected with the Smolensk drama. It is only a collection of documents: 95% of almost 150 pages are documents. We formulate very few fundamental theses. We are still waiting for the results of the research connected with the course of events during the last seconds of the flight. We are going to publish a complete report most likely in the middle of September.
WL – What is the reason for the postponement and earlier separation of the White Book?
AM – The White Book constitutes a factographic whole, presents facts in an orderly way and that’s why it could be published. But the teams of our various experts have not reached conclusions in several detailed matters, especially the course of events of the last 30 seconds of the flight and strictly speaking, the nature of the events that led to the fact that at the height of 15 m above the runway all the mechanisms of this plane stopped, which caused the plane to crash in the air and while hitting the ground the plane was inert, immobile. We would like to explain what events led to the fact that the power supply of the mechanisms was broken, that the central computer was switched off, that the black boxes stopped recording exactly at the height of 15 m above the runway… It is not that we do not know that fully but we are not sure. There are various hypotheses.
WL – What is the aim of presenting the White Book? The critics state that it is an element of the election game of PiS…
AM – For these critics any moment of this publication would have been inconvenient. We wanted to shows facts, documents so that people could check themselves what really happened, so that people do not depend on the chaff of the media presenting arguments of dubious quality that have no support in real facts. For the last one year and a half Poles were bombarded with evaluations, hypotheses, various judgements and suggestions… And just after the crash the Russians offered us, e.g., the opinion that the Polish pilots did not know Russian and because of that the crash was bound to happen… The White Book is undoubtedly the first ordered collection of documents connected with the Smolensk tragedy.
WL – How did the parliamentary team reach these documents?
AM – The documents and information included in the White Book are most frequently the testimonies of witnesses, opinions of engineers, soldiers and all those who had the knowledge about e.g., the damages and repairs of that plane… There are also analyses of our experts, both from Poland and abroad. Most of them want to remain anonymous until the final report is published.
WL – Why?
AM – They fear repressions, knowing what repressions affected the prosecutor supervising the Smolensk investigation and consequently, they can affect an official, working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who shared with us his knowledge about the agreements Minister Radoslaw Sikorski signed with the Russian diplomats. These were the agreements that caused that the visit of the most important people in the Polish state, including the President, was recognised as a private visit. Minister Sikorski knew that and accepted the state of affairs. It is one of the hundreds matters presented in the White Book. All of them show us the conscious, systematic activities of the representatives of Donald Tusk’s government to the detriment of Poland’s President.
WL – The White Book also shows the division and scale of fault of the Polish and Russian parties?
AM - The documents we presented show that the Russians are first of all to be blamed for this tragedy. One decision of the Russians – to close the airport that the air traffic controllers were legally obliged to, would have been enough. It is true that we can justify their activities since their superiors and political leadership ordered them to let the plane land. Their degree of responsibility is obvious but the evaluation of their fault from the moral and personal dimension should be discussed separately. The decision concerning the landing was political and came from Moscow, which should be clearly said.
WL – Considering the documents of the White Book what is the fault of the Polish party?
AM – We have several fundamental questions. Firstly, the decision to give up the purchase of safe planes. The government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski prepared a tender assuming the possibility of changing the old post-Russian fleet and using modern aircrafts but the government of Donald Tusk threw this matter to the wastebasket… Secondly, the systematic common diplomatic and political game between Prime Minister Tusk and Prime Minister Putin, aiming at eliminating President Kaczynski from the Smolensk visit and at making two separate visits. The President’s visit was recognised as private whereas the visit of Prime Minister Tusk had the total protection of a state visit with all its consequences. Thirdly, all the rules and regulations concerning the safety of the President and the highest state authorities were violated. The officers of the Government Protection Bureau (BOR) were not sent to see and check the area of the airport and during the planned arrival at Smolensk airport no BOR officer was there… And finally, the key matter – the whole protection of the visit was given to the Russians and even the flow of information concerning the activities undertaken by the Russians was not secured… In effect, the Russians who assumed the obligation to secure the visit called off their officials and sent them to the Vnukovo airport but of course, they did not inform anyone about that… If the President had landed he would have had no vehicle to go to Katyn.
WL – Do the documents suggest far-reaching carelessness of the Polish government?
AM – They documented it! They show absolute incompetence and violence of all possible rules. Additionally, we can consider the neglectful treatment of the warning that was sent the previous day, concerning a possibility of hijacking some EU plane. It is simply unusual! And finally, the most important thing – the international agreement signed by Prime Minister Tusk and Prime Minister Putin, submitting the proceedings and investigation as well as the whole evidence and the right to write a report and determine the causes of the crash to the Russians, to the hands of the KGB officials.
WL – The media and the ruling party review this Book unfavourably. They claim that it is an ordinary collection of press news. What is your reaction?
AM – Of course, there is also press news in our Book, in the sense that some documents were published in the papers. Unfortunately, numerous facts and documents did not reach the public opinion or escaped our notice, for instance the threat of a terrorist attack or the diplomatic negotiation documents saying that the visit of the Polish President would not be protected by the Russians so much as the earlier visit of the Prime Minister. The Russians say that straight and the diplomats of the Polish government accept that without any reservation… The assurance that the Russians will provide protection to the Prime Minister during his visit…
WL – Just after the White Book had been published there was an accusation that it was not only a political game of PiS but simply ‘dance on the victims’ graves’… Do you feel offended?
AM – After this nervous and absurd reaction one can see best how many people from the government would like Poles to make decisions concerning their near future, not knowing the situation leading to this great tragedy and who is responsible for it – who is responsible for the deaths of the Polish elite and what activities regarding the security of the Polish state were taken. No, I do not feel offended since if you defend a right cause you are not affected by insults.
Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska