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Polish President Dies in Plane Crash

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and high-ranking Polish government and military officials die Saturday in a plane crash in Russia.
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Updated from 11:09 a.m. EDT

Update includes revised death toll, popular reaction in Poland, list of Polish officials on board plane and response from Russian government.

SMOLENSK, Russia (


) -- Polish President Lech Kaczynski and high-ranking Polish government, military and church officials died Saturday in a plane crash in Russia.

The group was flying to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn forest massacre, in which Soviet secret police killed some 22,000 Polish military officers, according to an

Associated Press


In Warsaw, thousands of people placed candles and flowers at the presidential palace, the report said.

The crash killed 97 people including President Kaczynski, according to the report, which cited Russia's Emergency Ministry. Earlier reports put the death toll at 96.

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There were no survivors of the crash, which occurred as the president's plane, a 26-year-old Russian Tupolev, was trying to land in thick fog, the report said.

Among those on the plane were President's Kaczynski's wife, Maria; Poland's national bank president; deputy foreign minister; head of the National Security Office; deputy parliament speaker; the army chief of staff; the navy chief commander; and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the report said, citing the Polish foreign ministry.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will personally oversee the investigation into the crash, and he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered condolences, the report added.

"On this difficult day the people of Russia stand with the Polish people," Medvedev was quoted saying.

Both black boxes have been recovered from the plane, and initial evidence points to an accident, the


report said, adding that the plane appears to have hit treetops as it was approaching the military airfield in North Smolensk.

A spokesman for the Smolensk regional government said that Russian dispatchers had asked the crew of the Polish plane to land instead in Minsk or Moscow because of fog, the report said. But the pilot disregarded those instructions, the deputy head of Russia's air force was reported saying.

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