Polish president and first lady lie in state ahead of funeral

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

President Lech Kaczynski and his wife died along with 94 other people

The bodies of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and first lady Maria Kaczynska are lying in state ahead of their funeral on Sunday. The couple died along with 94 other people when the plane they were travelling in crashed in Russia. They will be buried after a memorial to the crash victims.

President Kaczynski’s body was repatriated from Russia on Sunday while the first lady’s was flown to Warsaw airport on Tuesday. Kaczynska’s coffin was driven to the Presidential Palace while draped in Poland’s flag. Thousands of mourners lined the six mile route as her coffin was transported. The first couple will be buried at Wawel Castle on Sunday.

Both chambers of parliament held special sessions to honour the crash victims. Poland is currently in seven days of mourning while Russia held a day of mourning on Monday.

The couple were travelling to Russia to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre when their plane clipped trees and crashed in Smolensk, Russia. The couple died along with many other senior politicians and military commanders. Other victims included the president of the central bank of Poland, the head of the Polish Olympic Committee and last President of Poland, from the Polish government-in-exile which existed in London during the Nazi and Communist period, Ryszard Kaczorowski.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to attend the funeral. President of the United States Barack Obama and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper have both announced that they will also attend.