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President, PM, send condolences to Poland

People carry flowers in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw as they gather to pay tribute after the crash of the Presidential plane in Smolensk.

People carry flowers in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw as they gather to pay tribute after the crash of the Presidential plane in Smolensk.

The President and the Prime Minister have expressed their condolences following the death of President of Poland in a plane crash this morning in Russia.

Dr Abela said he had received the news with great shock and sadness.

"President Kaczynski was a very respected Head of State and one of the architects of modern Polish history. He will be sorely missed," Dr Abela said.

Dr Gonzi said that President Kaczynski would be remembered for his dedication to the democratic transformation of Poland.

The PN and the PL also issued messages of condolence.

President Kaczynski, his wife, the Polish central bank head and the country's military chief were among 97 people killed when their plane crashed in thick fog on its approach to a Russian airport. They were in Russia to commemorate the killing, by Russian forces, of thousands of Poles in one of the worst attrocities of the second world war.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk described the crash as "the most tragic event of the country's post-war history".

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talked to Tusk by telephone and visited to the scene of the crash.

The death of Kaczynski, who with his twin brother was a dominant force in Polish politics, brought political uncertainty in Poland. A presidential election had been due in October but now must be held within two months, according to the constitution.

The crash occurred when the presidential Tupolev Tu-154 plunged into a forest about two km (1.3 miles) from the airport in the western Russian city of Smolensk.

Pilot error was a possible reason for the crash, said Andrei Yevseyenkov, spokesman for the Smolensk local government. Local officials said the plane had clipped treetops on its way down.

Thousands of mourners gathered outside the presidential palace, laying flowers, lighting candles and saying prayers. Church services in the predominantly Catholic country were hastily arranged.

Kaczynski, 60, was a one-time ally of Solidarity hero Lech Walesa and a co-founder of the rightist Law and Justice party with his brother. He resigned from the party when he became president in 2005 but continued to support it.

(Full story in the foreign news section)

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