The Smolensk air disaster in 2010, which took the life of then Polish President Lech Kaczyński and 95 others, was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revenge for Kaczyński’s defiant visit of Tbilisi ahead of the Russian invasion of Georgia, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has claimed.
In an article received by Saakashvili’s U.S. legal counsel, Massimo F. D’Angelo, and published by Politico, Saakashvili, who is currently in prison in his homeland, maintained that Putin personally was responsible for the former Polish president’s death.
“Putin killed him, and now he is killing me,” the former Georgian president wrote, referring to both Kaczyński and his own recent plight. Saakashvili is currently serving six years for abuse of power and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily injury.
On Aug. 12, 2008, during the Russian invasion of Georgia, Kaczyński, along with leaders of Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, went to Tbilisi where he delivered a speech at a rally.
“We know very well that today it’s Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine, the day after tomorrow the Baltic states, and then maybe it’s time for my country, for Poland,” the former Polish president predicted at the time, anticipating further aggressive actions by Russia against neighboring countries.
“Kaczyński sacrificed his life for Georgia,” Saakashvili wrote. “He once told me, ‘the difference between you and me is that thanks to Poland’s membership in the EU, I will stay alive after my presidency, while you may die.’ Well, Putin killed him, and now he is killing me,” Saakashvili added, referring to his imprisonment and serious health problems.
In his remarks, Saakashvili referred to Kaczyński as his political mentor and a kindred spirit, someone who was more than just a friend.
The politician recounted his trip to Kaczyński’s funeral in Kraków in 2010. He received the shocking news of the Smolensk plane crash while traveling to the United States and had to hurry back, as European airports were closing one by one due to volcanic ash from Iceland.
Upon his arrival, Saakashvili was invited by Lech Kaczyński’s brother, Jarosław, to join a private family procession, making the moment memorable for him.
Saakashvili served as the president of Georgia from 2004 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2013. He was convicted of committing abuses of power while in office and imprisoned in October 2021. He says the charges were politically motivated and continues to campaign for his release. According to many Georgian and Western human rights defenders, Saakashvili’s health condition is so severe that his life is at risk.