World Leaders React to Kaczynski's Death

US President Barack Obama, second right, shares a word with Poland's President Lech Kaczynski, center, and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer under the Passerelle bridge during an event at the NATO summit in Kehl, Germany on Saturday April 4, 2009.
AP Photo/Virginia Mayo
Last Updated 11:44 a.m. ET

World leaders offered remembrances and condolences to the Polish people following news that President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, including top officials of the Polish government, :

In a statement U.S. President Barack Obama said he called Polish Prime Minister Donald 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."

"I think the whole world will be saddened and in sorrow as a result of the tragic death in a plane crash of President Kaczynski and his wife Maria and the party that were with them," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. "We know the difficulties that Poland has gone through, the sacrifices that he himself made as part of the Solidarity movement. We know the contribution he made to the independence and the freedom of Poland."

"On this difficult day the people of Russia stand with the Polish people," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel recalled her meetings with Kaczynski and said that "we always found a result in the end."

"I knew that his whole life had been dedicated to the fight for the freedom of Poland and the freedom of Europe," she said.

"We will miss Lech Kaczynski in Germany too," she said. "Germany is mourning today with the whole Polish people."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a statement paid tribute to Kaczynski. "Lech Kaczynski devoted his life to his country. A tireless defender of the ideas in which he believed, he always battled with conviction for the values that founded his entry into politics: democracy, liberty and the fight against totalitarianism." Sarkozy said.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said "It is a grave loss that has stricken a friendly country and in which I am sharing in with my heart."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Kaczynski had "served his country and people with distinction and conviction, and was deservedly respected internationally. That he died en route to an event marking a new level of reconciliation between Poland and Russia is particularly poignant."

Pope Benedict XVI said in a condolence message that he learned of the deaths with "deep pain" and that he wanted to assure the Polish people of his "spiritual closeness" in this moment.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "On behalf of all of NATO, and myself personally, I express my most profound condolences to the people of Poland, and to the families of President and Mrs Kaczynski and all those who have died in this terrible accident. This is a tragedy for them and for Poland. My thoughts are with them today."

"Ukraine has learned about the plane crash ... with great sorrow and inexpressible pain," Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych said in a statement. "We share the deep pain of a loss that hit the friendly Polish people and mourn together with the families of the dead."

President George W. Bush released a statement saying, "Laura and I are deeply saddened by the deaths of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, and all those aboard their airplane. President Kaczynski was a strong defender of freedom and a friend to the United States. Laura and I have fond memories of our visits with the President and Maria.

"On this sad day, we send our heartfelt condolences to people of Poland, and especially to the families of all those lost in this tragic accident. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."

Colombia's foreign ministry said in a statement that "the government and people of Colombia express and send to the brother nation of Poland their condolences and solidarity in the face of this terrible event."