Smolensk sabotage (Polish: zamach smoleński) is a conspiracy theory popular in Poland, especially among the supporters of the Law and Justice (PiS) party. Its main claim is that the plane crash on April 10, 2010 near the Smolensk airport, which killed 96 people including then-President Lech Kaczyński and many high-ranking government officials, was deliberately caused by the Russians, with possible cooperation from the Polish government controlled by rival party Civic Platform. The primary promoter is Antoni Macierewicz, a Law and Justice MP. The details vary widely, and none of the variants makes much sense. Due to its intense politicization, Smolensk sabotage can be considered a close analogue to birtherism in the United States.
As of March 2013, one-third of Poles believes in Smolensk sabotage.
Historically, the relationship between the Russian Empire and then Soviet Union and Poland was very hostile. Between 1945 and 1989, when the Second Polish Republic was a Soviet satellite state, the official propaganda portrayed Soviets as allies and great benefactors, while in reality they were little more than exploiters. This still causes great distrust towards Russia among the Polish population.
- See Poland#Politics for an overview of Polish political parties
While many high-ranking Polish officials, public figures and MPs from all major parties died in the crash, the death of President Lech Kaczyński attracted the most attention. Kaczyński was aligned with the Law and Justice party, representing the Catholic religious right, and was unashamed of his partisan allegiance, even though the post of the President of Poland is intended to be politically neutral. As a result, the tragedy was monopolized by Law and Justice and its supporters.
Smolensk sabotage conspiracy theories invariably portray the late President and "true Poles" as the victims and the Russians as the saboteurs. The Civic Platform government is viewed as collaborators and/or puppets of the Russian special forces.
Details vary widely between proponents. Here are the most common ideas:
- Not everyone died in the crash, but the survivors were killed by Russians. This allegation is supported in a classy Loose Change fashion by a low quality recording made by a local who arrived at the crash site. Some sounds in the video are interpreted as gunshots. However, similar sounds can be heard on videos made at crash sites of similar aircraft, indicating that these are the sounds of aircraft components exploding in the fire.
- The government is to blame for the crash, because the President flew in a different plane than the PM, allegedly due to "political persecution" of the President.
- The government purposefully didn't buy new airplanes and/or purposefully limited the training available to pilots. The first claim is particularly hypocritical, considering that a tender for new airplanes was initiated in 2006, but cancelled in 2007 after Law and Justice came to power.
- The visibility was decreased by artificial fog created by the Russians. This claim was widely ridiculed by meteorologists and physicists, and quickly fell out of favor.
- The lifting force of the plane's wings was reduced by releasing large amount of helium, which has a lower density than air. This claim apparently originated in an anonymous e-mail sent to a Law and Justice MP. It also did not pass the laugh test.
- The plane's flight instruments were damaged by a laser beam.
- The pilots were poisoned. The toxic substance was in a canister installed in the cabin back in Poland, and its release was triggered by a radio signal.
- A Russian fuel-air bomb was detonated aboard the plane or above it.
- The GPS signal was jammed, causing the plane's instruments to show an incorrect position.
- The Russian flight controllers knowingly gave misleading information to the pilots, causing them to crash. This accusation is endorsed by Jarosław Kaczyński.
- There was a string of unrelated suicides in the years after the disaster. Smolensk sabotage proponents claim that these were actually assassinations of people who knew too much, even though there is no evidence for murder in these cases, and some of these people have no connection to the crash at all.
 Evidence against sabotage
The most important problem with this theory is: why would anybody bother? Although the promoters say that the goal was to kill Lech Kaczyński, there appears to be very little motivation either for the Russians or the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party to take great risks to eliminate him. Lech Kaczyński was a lame duck politician as a result of the scandals that brought about pre-term elections and removed Law and Justice from power in 2009. The polls showed he had minimal chances of being reelected for a second term. Moreover, Kaczyński was politically convenient to PO, since they could blame any failed or delayed reforms on obstruction by a hostile president. Proponents of the theory also tend to forget that important members of the Civic Platform party died in the crash.
Russian and Polish investigations of the crash reached very similar conclusions, putting the blame on adverse weather, dangerous terrain near the airport (there is a valley under the path of descent, reaching 15 meters below the runway level) and pilot errors, even though the Polish inquiry was headed by an opposition MP. (Admittedly, he was from a post-communist left wing party.)
 Impact outside Poland
The theory is supported by Dr. Eugene Poteat, a retired CIA specialist and a professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington. It was also mentioned on various conspiracy theory sites.
- ↑ Belief in Smolensk sabotage on the increase (Google translation)
- ↑ The video in question
- ↑ Tu-134 crash on Crimea - "gunshot" sounds at 1:17 and 1:27
- ↑ wybory onet.pl: "If there was an agreement on a joint visit, there would be no disaster" (Google translation)
- ↑ Wyborcza.pl: R. Rogalski: The sabotage hypothesis is completely plausible (Google translation)
- ↑ Is it possible to create a fog - letter from an expert (Google translation)
- ↑ Where did the helium theory come from? A PiS MP received an anonymous e-mail
- ↑ Helium could have caused the disaster? An expert responds
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Prof. Jacek Trznadel: Shattered black flowers (Google translation)
- ↑ Kaczyński: Without the Russians, there would be no disaster (Google translation)
- ↑ Example (Google translation)
- ↑ In Poland, the president has veto power over any new laws. This veto can be overruled by a three-fifths parliamentary supermajority, which PO and its coalition partners never had.
- ↑ http://www.iwp.edu/news_publications/detail/prof-poteat-interviewed-on-suspicious-smolensk-plane-crash
- ↑ http://powerpointparadise.com/blog/2012/08/the-polish-smolensk-plane-crash-or-attack-what-really-happened-dutch-vdo/