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Polish president plane crash tests Polish, Russian leaders

Polish leaders appear to be quickly picking up the pieces after the tragic Polish president plane crash, which also killed much of Poland's political elite.

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Volunteers carry candles in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, Sunday, after the Polish president plane crash killed President Lech Kaczynski.

Petr David Josek/AP

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The tragic Polish president plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski, along with much of Poland's political elite, on their way to share a moment of reconciliation over one of the most agonizing episodes in five centuries of stormy Russia-Poland relations, poses a severe political and moral challenge that both countries' leaders – at least so far – appear to be passing with flying colors.

The historical symbolism of the accident could hardly have been worse.

Mr. Kaczynski, along with several Polish World War II survivors and intellectual leaders, had been on their way to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre, in which Soviet secret police murdered 20,000 Polish military officers and buried them in the Katyn Forest, near the western Russian city of Smolensk.

For many Poles, that slaughter epitomized their relations with Russia which, over the centuries, has seen their country invaded, divided up between Russia and other powers, and subjected to long periods of domination from Moscow that only came to an end with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

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