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In Poland Government asks Russia to return 2010 presidential jet wreckage

The Kremlin responded with tit-for-tat sanctions notably targeting Polish agricultural products.

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A Russian soldier stands guard on April 11, 2010 near the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft which crashed on near Smolensk airport play

A Russian soldier stands guard on April 11, 2010 near the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft which crashed on near Smolensk airport

(AFP/File)

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski on Wednesday demanded that Russia hand over the wreckage of a 2010 presidential plane crash that has stoked friction with Moscow and caused divisions at home.

President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria were among the 96 people who died in the crash in Smolensk, western Russia, on April 10, 2010.

"If Russia wants respect and pragmatism from us, then we expect the same from them," Waszczykowski told the Polish news agency PAP.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "says he's ready to do everything (to restore dialogue). Here's my response: no need to do everything, just start by returning the Tupolev 154 wreckage and lifting economic sanctions against Poland."

Bilateral ties have been strained since the crash as well as Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, which prompted the EU to impose sanctions against Russia.

The Kremlin responded with tit-for-tat sanctions notably targeting Polish agricultural products.

Warsaw has repeatedly asked Moscow to hand over the wreckage and black boxes, but each time Russia has said it will only do so when its own inquiry is finished.

The Polish delegation was heading to a ceremony in Russia's Katyn forest in memory of thousands of Polish army officers killed by Soviet secret police in 1940 -- a massacre the Kremlin denied until 1990.

The wreckage has symbolic value for Warsaw but it is also a major piece of evidence that could shed light on what caused the crash.

Poland's previous liberal government blamed bad weather and errors by the Polish pilots and Russian air traffic controllers.

But the current governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, whose leader is the late president's identical twin, rejected those conclusions as a cover-up and launched its own investigation.

This week Polish justice officials began exhuming the remains of the victims to test for traces of explosives or combustion, as the PiS believes a fire may have erupted onboard before the crash.

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