Plane crash transcripts published

Cockpit conversations of the final minutes before the plane crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski reveal pilots decided to land in heavy fog despite warnings from air traffic controllers about poor visibility.

A transcript of the last 39 minutes of the flight in April also shows that a foreign ministry official, Mariusz Kazana, entered the cockpit and made remarks indicating that the president was involved in deciding whether or not to make the difficult landing.

There have been suspicions in Poland that Mr Kaczynski might have pressured the pilot and co-pilot to risk a dangerous landing to keep from being late to a memorial ceremony for Poles massacred by the Soviet Union 70 years ago.

The black boxes, which contain some indecipherable information, do not settle that matter definitively, but they do suggest that the pilots might have been distracted by the presence in the cockpit of non-crew members.

According to the newly published transcript, the dangers became clear about 25 minutes before landing, when an air traffic official told the Polish crew: "The conditions for landing do not exist."

Later, Mr Kazana, the chief of diplomatic protocol, entered the cockpit and Captain Arkadiusz Protasiuk told him: "Sir, the fog is increasing. At the moment, under these conditions that we have now, we will not manage to land." Mr Kazana is quoted as answering: "Well, then we have a problem."

"We can hover around for half an hour and then fly off to a backup" airport, the captain replies, later naming Minsk and Vitebsk, two cities in Belarus, as backup options. The crew was also told by the Russian control tower that a Russian Ilyushin plane had abandoned two landing attempts and had flown to another airport.

It's not clear if Mr Kazana left the cockpit and then returned, but a few minutes later he said: "There isn't a decision from the president yet about what to do next."

Polish and Russian investigators have not yet drawn final conclusions about what caused the crash that killed Mr Kaczynski and 95 others, many of them top civilian and military leaders, but evidence has so far pointed to pilot error and bad weather conditions, and the black box recordings seem to further support that theory.

The 40-page transcript, released in Russian and Polish, showed that the plane's warning system told pilots in the two minutes before the crash outside the western Russian city of Smolensk that terrain was ahead and urged them eight times in the final 16 seconds of the flight to "pull up, pull up" - instructions the pilots did not heed until it was too late.