While poles have begun gathering outside the presidential palace in Warsaw, international leaders have expressed their condolences for the country and people who have lost members of their families and friends in the accident.
REUTERS - World leaders expressed shock and sorrow on Saturday over the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed when his plane crashed on approach to a Russian airport.
The shock over Kaczynski's death was especially pronounced in Germany, where he
had become a household name for his combative stance even though Berlin never tired of trying to convince him that it was one of Poland's closest allies.
Despite the strains, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the first to express her sorrow over the death of Kaczynski, with whom she had some memorable encounters over differing views on European Union developments and Germany's post-war role.
"The only thing I can say now is that I'm in deep shock about the plane crash and the death of the Polish president," a visibly shaken Merkel told reporters in Potsdam, near Berlin.
Merkel later wrote to Poland's prime minister, Donald Tusk, saying: "All of Germany is mourning and standing with you."
Describing Kaczynski death as "devastating to Poland, to the United States, and to the world", U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement he had been "a distinguished statesman who played a key role in the Solidarity movement, and he was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity".
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi expressed his condolences.
"I was a personal friend of President Lech Kaczynski," Berlusconi said. "This a grave moment of mourning for a friendly country and Italy joins in the mourning with all its heart."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to Kaczynski's strong leadership and his heartfelt patriotism.
"President Kaczynski was one of the defining actors in Poland's modern political history," Brown said. "From his role in the Solidarity movement to his long and distinguished career in public service.
"He will mourned across the world and remembered as a passionate patriot and democrat," Brown said.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was quoted as saying on state TV: "This is a disaster of unprecedented magnitude. For the families, for all the Polish people. That this happens on such a scale is beyond comprehension."
There had been tension between Poland and much of the EU, in particular Germany, in mid-2007 when Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw, Poland's prime minister at the time, came close to sabotaging a deal to complete a new treaty for the EU.
At one point Jaroslaw Kaczynski suggested Poland should be given more voting power in the EU to compensate for the millions of Poles killed by the Nazis in World War Two.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also knew Kaczynski well and called his death a tragedy for Poland.
"France loses a friend who was profoundly attached to developing relations between our two countries," Sarkozy said.
"Driven by an ardent sense of patriotism, Lech Kaczynski dedicated his life to his country. A tireless defender of the ideas in which he believed, he always fought with conviction for the values that underpinned his entry into politics."
In Israel, where Kaczynski was highly regarded for his role in forging closer ties after a history stained by anti-Semitism, President Shimon Peres said in a letter: "The tragedy is a terrible blow to the Polish people and the entire world.
"President Kaczynski and his wife did much work to bring reconciliation between the Israeli and Polish peoples, and made a significant contribution to help heal the wounds of the past and build a better common future."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was shocked by Kaczynski's death, his spokesman said, especially as he was on his way to a World War Two memorial in Katyn that marked a new level of reconciliation between Poland and Russia.
President Kaczynski served his country and people with distinction and conviction, the secretary-general said.
Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, also expressed her condolences as did the Spanish government, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency.
In Hungary, President Laszlo Solyom hailed Kaczynski's work. "Friendship with Hungary, which we celebrated every year together, had a special place in his heart," he was quoted as telling state news agency MTI.
Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, called his compatriot a great Polish politician.
"It's with great sadness that I learnt about the shocking news of the crash -- on board was my friend and a great Polish politician, Lech Kaczynski," Buzek said. "It is with a heavy heart that I think of all those with him on board of the plane."
In Vilnius, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told journalists: "I am personally shocked because I spoke with him just a day before yesterday. We have lost a good friend."
Date created : 2010-04-10