12 Apr 2010

Polish leader's body to lie in state as country mourns

9:20 pm on 12 April 2010

Poland is struggling to come to terms with its worst peacetime tragedy after a plane crash killed its president and 95 others near the Russian city of Smolensk.

Relatives are yet to identify most of the bodies that include many top defence officials, the central bank governor, opposition MPs and President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria.

The Polish government plane crashed en route to a war memorial service in Russia on Saturday morning.

Russian investigators suspect that pilot error is to blame. They say the pilots were warned they were flying too low just before the plane clipped tree-tops in heavy fog, as it was coming in to land at an air base.

Mr Kaczynski's coffin returned home on Sunday and the body is to lie in state for a week at his palace in the capital Warsaw.

The BBC reports the pavement in front of the palace has nearly disappeared from sight, covered with thousands of small glass pots containing candles laid as a mark of respect.

An outpouring of grief has been seen in Polish communities across the world and the country is observing a week of public mourning.

Meanwhile, Russia is also marking a day of mourning on Monday, as relatives arrive in Moscow try to identify the bodies.

Poland has moved to fill some of the gaps left by the disaster, appointing an acting head of the central bank, while the presidential post has been filled by the parliamentary speaker pending a new election.