Anna Walentynowicz, the Polish free trade union activist whose firing sparked a series of strikes at the Gdansk Shipyard and eventually led to the formation of the Solidarity trade union, was killed today in the Smolensk air disaster. She was 80.
Polish president killed
(Guardian) - The Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, and his wife were among 132 people killed when their plane crashed in thick fog on its approach to a regional airport in Russia early this morning.
Kaczynski was visiting Smolensk to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, which took place in forests outside the town. The massacre of Polish officers by Russian secret police was one of the most notorious incidents of the second world war, and has long been a source of tension between Warsaw and Moscow.
On Wednesday, Poland's prime minister Donald Tusk attended a joint ceremony at Katyn with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Kaczynski, who had poor relations with the Kremlin, was making a separate trip to the spot. Guardian
President and top officials killed
(Reuters) - 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.
Russian television showed the smouldering fuselage and fragments of the plane scattered in a forest. A Reuters reporter saw a broken wing some distance from the rest of the aircraft.
The plane was one of two Tupolev TU-154M's in the Polish government fleet, both about 20 years old. Government officials had complained about the age of Poland's official fleet.
Russia's Emergencies Ministry said 96 people were aboard the government plane, including 88 members of a Polish delegation en route to commemorate Poles killed in mass murders in the town of Katyn under orders from Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1940.
Earlier reports had said 132 people were aboard. Smolensk regional governor Sergei Antufyev and Polish state news agency PAP said there were no survivors.
A Russian mission control official who had been present during conversations with the pilot told Reuters the pilot had ignored advice.
"The pilot was advised to fly to Moscow or Minsk because of heavy fog, but he still decided to land. No one should have been landing in that fog," he said, on condition his name was not published. Reuters