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Poland's former health minister questioned in 2010 crash

Associated Press logo Associated Press 31/05/2017 By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press
FILE - This is a Sunday, April 11, 2010 file photo of the wreckage of the Polish presidential plane which crashed early Saturday in Smolensk, western Russia. Polish prosecutors who are investigating the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others have sent samples from the plane for laboratory tests in Britain to help them determine whether an explosion caused the disaster. Ewa Bialik, spokeswoman for the National Prosecutor’s Office, said late Thursday, May 25, 2017 that the samples have arrived at Britain’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev, File) © The Associated Press FILE - This is a Sunday, April 11, 2010 file photo of the wreckage of the Polish presidential plane which crashed early Saturday in Smolensk, western Russia. Polish prosecutors who are investigating the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others have sent samples from the plane for laboratory tests in Britain to help them determine whether an explosion caused the disaster. Ewa Bialik, spokeswoman for the National Prosecutor’s Office, said late Thursday, May 25, 2017 that the samples have arrived at Britain’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev, File)

WARSAW, Poland — After autopsies revealed coffins with the remains of multiple victims, Polish prosecutors on Wednesday questioned a former health minister over alleged government negligence in the aftermath of the 2010 plane crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.

Prosecutors say they want to know why the Polish government at the time failed to ensure that Russia carried out proper identification of the remains, and failed to perform autopsies after the bodies arrived in Poland in sealed coffins in April 2010. Government officials insisted the coffins should not be opened.

Autopsies done now on the order of the ruling party, led by the late president's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have revealed that many coffins hold remains of multiple victims.

The discovery has further strained ties between Poland and Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Wednesday criticized what she called unfounded claims that Russia was responsible for mistakes in identifying bodies.

"We closely cooperated with Polish colleagues, and no problems arose back then," she said at a briefing.

Polish prosecutors questioned Ewa Kopacz, the former health minister and a physician, over her role in Moscow, where she assured the public that all due professional attention was given to victims' remains. It is still unclear what role Poland took in the forensic procedures.

I will fight to the last to prevent such tragic event from becoming a political issue," Kopacz, who served as prime minister from 2014-2015, said Wednesday. She said she did the right thing to be in Moscow.

Investigators also hope to question Donald Tusk, prime minister at the time and now a top European Union official.

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Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.

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