Russia and Poland’s newfound solidarity is now under severe strain following claims that Russian soldiers stole the credit cards of one of the victims of April’s plane crash that wiped out much of Poland’s leadership.
Polish authorities said that Russia had detained four soldiers on suspicion of looting credit cards from the body of Andrzej Przewoznik, a historian and top Polish official. Przewoznik perished with 95 other people, including Poland’s president Lech Kaczynski, when their plane went down in thick fog near Smolensk airport in western Russia.
According to Warsaw, Przewoznik’s card was used to withdraw money from a cashpoint within hours of the catastrophe. Further withdrawals were made from four Smolensk cash machines over the next two days. Przewoznik’s widow raised the alarm when she discovered around 6,000 zloty (€1,400) had vanished from her dead husband’s bank account.
Today Polish television reported that credit cards belonging to another plane crash victim, Aleksandra Natalli-Swiat, the deputy head of the Law and Justice party, had also disappeared. No transactions were recorded, however…
The row threatens to undermine the genuine closeness that has blossomed between Russia and Poland in the crash’s aftermath. The Kremlin gave unprecedented assistance and access to Polish investigators, while Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, flew to Smolensk with his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk. President Dmitry Medvedev attended Kaczynski’s funeral in Krakow.
Distrust wasn’t helped when Poles accused Russian police of stealing the cards – after reports of arrests. In fact, it apparently was Russian police who turned up the soldiers sent to the crash scene who stole the credit cards.
Old anxieties, conflicts rarely laid to rest in that part of Europe leap out at you at the simplest provocation. I hope they get it sorted.