WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Forensic testing has proven that two more victims of the 2010 plane crash in Russia that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others were misidentified and buried in the wrong graves, Polish prosecutors said Wednesday.
The number of misidentified victims has now grown to six and highlights flaws in the handling of the crash’s aftermath in Russia. Such errors are deepening Polish distrust of historic foe Russia, while also fueling Polish conspiracy theories about the cause of the disaster. But a Polish official also has been blamed for misidentifying one of the victims, while even the families of victims of the brutal crash have made mistakes in identifying their loved ones.
Capt. Marcin Maksjan, an official with the military prosecutors, said two bodies suspected of being in the wrong graves were exhumed from two separate locations in Warsaw last week, and that forensic testing confirmed the suspicions.
“The results show unequivocally that the bodies of the victims were laid to rest in the wrong graves,” a separate statement by military prosecutors said. It said the genetic tests were carried out independently by two research centers.
Polish media have said they were two Roman Catholic priests, but authorities wouldn’t confirm their identities.
The suspicions arose after a study of forensic medical documentation sent by Russia raised suspicions that errors had been made.
Maksjan said it appeared that families of the victims made a correct identification of their loved ones after the crash but that Russian officials probably then put them in the wrong coffins in a Moscow institute of forensic medicine where the bodies were handled before they were sent to Poland for burial.
Since September Polish authorities have also exhumed four other bodies and confirmed they were mixed-up. In one case, the Solidarity hero Anna Walentynowicz was found to have been confused with another female victim. Soon after that Poland’s last president-in-exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, was exhumed and reburied after being found to be in the wrong grave.
In Kaczorowski’s case, a Polish Foreign Ministry official misidentified the body in Russia. He recently apologized for that mistake.
Authorities say more exhumations could take place.
The string of exhumations, repeat forensic testing and reburials has revived the pain of the 2010 tragedy, which killed not only the president and first lady but also dozens of the country’s top civilian and military leaders.
An awareness that something was amiss in the identification of the bodies has also added to suspicions some Poles hold of Russian ill will, and they are feeding conspiracy theories that Russia caused the crash intentionally.
Most Poles, however, reject the conspiracies. A Polish state investigation found bad weather and human error to have caused the crash.
Russian officials have said that any mistakes in identifying the bodies resulted from the badly damaged state of the bodies after the impact of the crash.
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