Russia, Poland Probe Possible Reconciliation After Kaczynski Death
April 19, 2010
KRAKOW, Poland -- Poland and Russia appear to have taken steps toward possible reconciliation, drawn together by the death of Poland's President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash in Russia along with 95 other high-level Poles.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who attended Kaczynski's burial April 18 in the city of Krakow, has suggested that the tragedy of the April 10 crash could help bring the Polish and Russian peoples closer.
Later, it was announced that Poland's interim President Bronislaw Komorowski had accepted an invitation from Medvedev to attend May 9 ceremonies in Moscow marking the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II.
The archbishop of Krakow, Stanislaw Dziwisz, who conducted Kaczynski's funeral mass, thanked Russians for their help and support since the crash, saying such actions have given hope for reconciliation.
"(This) gives us hope for reconciliation between our two great nations," said Dziwisz, former personal secretary of the late Polish pope, John Paul II.
Kaczynski had been anti-communist and a frequent critic of what he called Russia's "imperialism." As president, he had focused on building closer ties between NATO and European Union member Poland and the United States.
The plane crash occurred as the Polish delegation was traveling to Russia for ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of more than 20,000 Polish soldiers and intellectuals by Soviet forces around Katyn forest. For decades until 1990, Moscow denied responsibility for the deaths, blaming the Nazis.
Speaking to Polish television shortly before boarding his plane back to Moscow, Medvedev said: "In view of these heavy losses, I believe we can make serious efforts to draw our nations closer together, to develop economic relations and find solutions to the most difficult problems, including Katyn."
After a solemn mass, two gun carriages bore the coffins of Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, draped in the red-and-white national flag, through winding streets to their final resting place in Wawel cathedral high above Krakow, Poland's ancient capital
Other mourners at the funeral included the presidents of Germany, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Georgia.
U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were among those who were forced to abandon plans to attend Kaczynski's funeral due to the ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano that has closed Polish and other European airports.
"President Kaczynski was a patriot and close friend and ally of the United States, as were those who died alongside him, and the American people will never forget the lives they led," Obama said in a statement.
compiled from agency reports
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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