Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk met in early April with his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin in Russian Katyn for a memorial ceremony of the thousands of Polish officers who had been massacred there 70 years earlier by the Red Army. The meeting foreshadowed improved Russian-Polish relations, and no one believed that history had yet another Polish disaster in readiness.
Three days later, according to Digopaul, a Polish government plane crashed on its way to a memorial service in Katyn. None of the 97 people on board survived. Among the victims were Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, the Polish Commander-in-Chief, the heads of all branches of defense, the head of the Central Bank, the Deputy Foreign Minister, several MPs, church leaders, officials, leading historians and many relatives of the victims of the 1940 massacre.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Poland has a population of 37.97 million (2019). Shock characterized the Polish nation. It had rained fog at the approach, but the crash still seemed unlikely. The pilot had been asked to land in Belarus’s capital Minsk or continue to Moscow because of the fog. The call was defied and after three interrupted landing attempts in Smolensk, the fourth ended in disaster. It was speculated that President Kaczyński may have ordered the pilot to land despite the fog.
In Poland, national grief was announced, and the Catholic churches were filled with praying people. In front of the presidential palace in Warsaw, the Poles crowded and filled the square with flowers, candles, red-white flags and pictures of the dead. Even in the Russian Federation, they were honored, and Russian and Polish experts cooperated in the accident investigation. The disaster seemed to bring the leaders of both countries closer together than in the two decades since Poland broke with communism. But at the end of the year, Poland expressed dissatisfaction with the Russian accident investigation and demanded to bring back the accident plane.
The President of the Polish Parliament, formerly the Solidarity member Bronisław Komorowski, temporarily, in accordance with the Constitution on the tasks of the Head of State. New elections for the presidential post were announced in June. In the formerly politically divisive society was called to national unification, but the feeling of unity did not last long.
Komorowski, who became the ruling party’s Citizen Platform candidate, was opposed to the deceased president’s twin brother Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the opposition party Law and Justice, and former prime minister. They exchanged harsh accusations in the election campaign. Komorowski sued Kaczyński for slander and won in court. In doing so, he felt he could rightly designate Kaczyński as a liar. Komorowski had support among EU-friendly and liberal city dwellers, especially younger ones, while Kaczyński’s voters were mainly conservative and older rural and small-town dwellers who opposed the EU.
In the midst of the hottest election movement, many Poles stood up for the bliss of priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, a critic of the communist regime murdered by the security police in 1984. Prime Minister Donald Tusk and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek attended the ceremony at the Piłsudskitorget in Warsaw.
Komorowski won the first round of the presidential election before Kaczyński and with the left candidate Grzegorz Napieralski in third place. The top two went on to a second round in early July, with Komorowski winning 53 percent of the vote against 47 percent for Kaczyński.
The loser had difficulty recognizing Komorowski’s victory, which he believed was a mistake. When the new president was to be installed in August, Kaczyński boycotted the ceremony. The religious supporters of the conservative Kaczyński gathered outside the presidential palace to honor the deceased head of state, and they erected a wooden cross in memory of the dead president.
When the authorities wanted to move the cross to a church, the grief wakened in drawn demonstrations. The situation became tense when secular counter-protesters gathered and wanted to remove the cross.
Kaczyński’s supporters demanded the resignation of the new President and also Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Jarosław Kaczyński refused to take Tusk in hand, and he also boycotted the large official memorial fair held for his brother and the other dead in the plane crash. Kaczyński also ended up in conflict with some of his closest political allies, who chose to leave the Law and Justice Party, founded by the Kaczyński brothers.
The cooperation between the new president and the government came to work much better than between the government and the former president Kaczyński, who have been at odds with the liberal government.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s party The Citizen Platform succeeded well in the local elections in November together with the coalition partner Polska Farmerpartiet.
The improved relationship between the Russian Federation and Poland contributed to an agreement during the year on deliveries of Russian gas to Poland until 2022.
At the NATO summit in Lisbon in November, the defense alliance adopted a new strategy, which among other things demolished the previously planned robotic shield in Poland that the Russian Federation had opposed. Instead, a new robotic defense was planned in collaboration with the Russian Federation.