Polish president, 96 others killed in plane crash

SMOLENSK, Russia (AP) - Initial signs indicate the crash of a plane carrying the president of Poland, his wife, and scores of other Polish officials was an accident and that no foul play was involved.

President Lech Kaczynski (lekh kah-CHIN'-skee) and some of the country's highest military and civilian leaders died when the presidential plane crashed as it tried to land in thick fog in western Russia.

Russian officials put the death toll at 97. An official with the Smolensk regional government says dispatchers asked the pilots to divert from the military airport to which they were headed because of the fog, but the pilots ignored the instruction and ended up crashing into a wooded area.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (POO'-tihn) has personally assumed charge of the investigation in a move reflecting the grave sensibilities of the incident to relations between Russia and Poland.

Kaczynski and his delegation were en route to events marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn forest massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police during World War II.

In a television interview, Kaczynski's predecessor says the crash cements forest's reputation as "a cursed place" with "horrible symbolism" for Poles.

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