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Poland buries President Kaczynski

RIA Novosti

18/04/201022:40

MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) - Poland on Sunday said goodbye to President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Mary, who died last week in a plane crash near Smolensk in western Russia.

They were interred in Krakow's historic Wawel Cathedral, the main burial site for Polish monarchs for several centuries, in the crypt that holds Jozef_Pilsudski, a driving force behind Poland's reemergence as an independent state after World War I.

About 150,000 people thronged the streets of the city to pay their last respects, and Polish and foreign leaders including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attended the state funeral service in St. Mary's Basilica.

The Russian leader and Poland's acting president, Bronislaw Komorowski, said the common mourning of their two countries' people would drive the future development of Russian-Polish relations.

FAREWELL

At least 45,000 people pressed into the square outside the church where the leaders gathered for the funeral Mass. Another 100,000 flocked to other areas of the city and lined the route of the funeral procession from St. Mary's to Wawel Cathedral.

As well as Medvedev, the presidents of Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Georgia were among the mourners, but other leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama did not attend due to the volcanic ash over Europe grounding flights.

The burial service was restricted to relatives of the presidential couple and their closest friends.

The two coffins were placed in an amber-colored alabaster tomb inscribed with just their names and a cross. A special plaque has been placed nearby in memory of the 96 people killed in the plane crash near Smolensk.

TIES WITH RUSSIA

In a speech at the funeral ceremony, Komorowski gave thanks to everyone who had supported Poland over the past week, and called for the Polish and Russian peoples to overcome the tragedy together.

Before the ceremony, Medvedev met with Komorowski, and both sides said the feelings shown by the people of Russia and Poland would be crucial for the further development of bilateral relations.

Medvedev promised Russia would continue its open cooperation with the Polish authorities in establishing the causes of the tragedy, spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said. The Polish leader thanked the president and the Russian people for their solidarity and support, and both men said the Polish and Russian peoples had been united by their grief.

Mourning in Poland will continue until midnight, and on Monday the funerals of the other 94 passengers will begin. A number of top public figures died in the crash, which occurred on April 10 as they flew to Russia for a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when thousands of Polish officers were shot by Soviet secret police.

The government Tu-154 crashed as the pilot attempted to land in thick fog at an airport near Smolensk. Investigators say there is no evidence of technical failure and air traffic controllers had advised the pilot to divert to Minsk or Moscow.



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