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Russia says Polish plane crash probe to build ties


Soldiers stand in front of the coffins of the last victims to be repatriated from the Polish government's Tupolev TU-154 plane crash in Russia, during a ceremony at an airport in Warsaw April 23, 2010. REUTERS/Wojciech Olkusnik/Agencja Gazeta
Soldiers stand in front of the coffins of the last victims to be repatriated from the Polish government's Tupolev TU-154 plane crash in Russia, during a ceremony at an airport in Warsaw April 23, 2010. REUTERS/Wojciech Olkusnik/Agencja Gazeta

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov Saturday told a delegation from Warsaw he hoped the investigation of the April 10 presidential plane crash near Smolensk would help improve ties with Poland.

"We fully realize that, on the one hand, it is our debt to the memory of the dead, and on the other, it is a factor which will define the level of trust between Russia and Poland in future years," Ivanov said, at the start of a meeting to discuss the investigation.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 other mostly senior Polish political and military figures died when their plane crashed in thick fog near Smolensk in western Russia.

They were heading to the Katyn forest to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by Soviet secret police. For decades until 1990, Moscow denied responsibility for the deaths, blaming the Nazis.

Leaders from both nations have said they hope the crash serves as a catalyst for reconciliation between their countries, divided by historical grievances and present-day disputes over missile defense, NATO enlargement, gas pipelines and other issues.

Ivanov said Russian specialists were working closely with their Polish colleagues on the investigation. They have obtained black box voice and data recordings and recordings from air traffic control at Smolensk airport.

Ivanov said all 96 bodies had been identified.

"Only the truth will give us the possibility to continue the process of rapprochement between our people, who are living through the grief of this heavy loss together," Ivanon said, seated across from Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich.

Klich said: "We have to speed up the work and we have to follow the principles of openness and transparency."

(Reporting by Alfred Kueppers; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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