NPR logo Four Russian Soldiers Nabbed For Alleged Polish Plane-Crash Looting

Four Russian Soldiers Nabbed For Alleged Polish Plane-Crash Looting

The story Monday that Russia has placed four soldiers under arrest for allegedly stealing credit cards from a victim of the plane crash that killed Poland's president and other top officials in April reminded me of a comment I once read somewhere from an airplane crash expert.

The expert said that given the lack of money, wallets and expensive luggage found in the wreckage at many crash sites, especially in poor parts of the world, one might think that only poor people fly in airplanes.

Robbing from the dead goes back to the beginning of time, of course. But the thought of people rummaging through the wreckage and bodies at a plane crash site is the kind of behavior that brings to mind a collection of Mark Twain essays called "On the Damned Human Race."

An excerpt of a Reuters story:

A Russian Defence Ministry official declined to comment, but Russia's two largest news agencies, RIA and Interfax, both quoted unnamed officials in the "armed services" saying at least three ministry servicemen had been detained for using the cards.

Polish prosecutors have been investigating the theft of two credit cards that belonged to Andrzej Przewoznik, a historian who died when the presidential plane crashed in western Russia on April 10.

"I can confirm that we have been informed (by the Russian side) that four soldiers from the units that secured the crash area were detained," a spokeswoman for the Internal Security
Agency (ABW) said.

Polish government spokesman Pawel Gras also confirmed that four Russian soldiers had been detained on suspicion of theft, correcting comments he made on Sunday that four Interior Ministry servicemen, known as OMON, had been involved.

Polish media have reported that 6,000 zlotys ($1,800) were withdrawn with one of Przewoznik's cards roughly two hours after the disaster.

Polish Acting President Bronislaw Komorowski asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month to increase security around the sight of the plane crash near Smolensk after Polish reports showed victims' personal belongings unearthed there.

Local media also showed images of civilians collecting items near the wreckage of the plane soon after the accident.