Obama: Death of Polish president 'devastating' to U.S. and the world

President Barack Obama offered his condolences this morning on the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and a number of Polish leaders.

Obama said he had spoken with Prime Minister Donald Tusk shortly after the tragedy.

"Today’s loss is devastating to Poland, to the United States, and to the world," Obama said in a statement. "President Kaczynski was a distinguished statesman who played a key role in the Solidarity movement, and he was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity."

Kaczynski's plane crashed between Warsaw and Smolensk due to heavy fog. He was in Russia to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, where Soviet forces killed more than 20,000 Polish people.

Poland is set to participate in Monday's nuclear summit in Washington. There is no word yet on whether they will withdraw.

Kaczynski, whose twin brother Jaroslaw used to concurrently serve as prime minister, was a conservative who strongly backed the Easter European missile defense shield promoted by the George W. Bush administration.

"Today, there are heavy hearts across America," Obama said. "The United States cherishes its deep and abiding bonds with the people of Poland.  Those bonds are represented in the strength of our alliance, the friendships among our people, and the extraordinary contributions of Polish-Americans who have helped to shape our nation."

Read Obama's full statement:



Today, I called Polish Prime Minister Tusk to express Michelle's and my deepest condolences to the people of Poland on the tragic deaths this morning of President Lech Kaczynski, First Lady Maria Kaczynski, and all who were traveling with them to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kaczynski family, the loved ones of those killed in this tragic plane crash, and the Polish nation.

Today’s loss is devastating to Poland, to the United States, and to the world.  President Kaczynski was a distinguished statesman who played a key role in the Solidarity movement, and he was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity.  With him were many of Poland’s most distinguished civilian and military leaders who have helped to shape Poland’s inspiring democratic transformation.  We join all the people of Poland in mourning their passing.

Today, there are heavy hearts across America.  The United States cherishes its deep and abiding bonds with the people of Poland.  Those bonds are represented in the strength of our alliance, the friendships among our people, and the extraordinary contributions of Polish-Americans who have helped to shape our nation.

It is a testament to the strength of the Polish people that those who were lost were travelling to commemorate a devastating massacre of World War II as the leaders of a strong, vibrant, and free Poland.  That strength will ensure that Poland emerges from the depths of this unthinkable tragedy, and that the legacy of the leaders who died today will be a light that continues to guide Poland – and the world – in the direction of human progress.