President Barack Obama expressed his deepest condolences to Poland on Saturday following the plane crash that killed that nation’s president and some of the country’s highest military and civilian leaders.

Mr. Obama called Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk over what the U.S. president described as a devastating loss to both countries and to the world.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski was a distinguished statesman who was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity, Mr. Obama said in a statement from the White House.

The U.S. president described Poland’s civilian and military leaders who died with Kaczynski as having helped shape that country’s “inspiring democratic transformation.”

In conveying the message of condolence from both himself and first lady Michelle Obama, the president noted that Kaczynski and his wife Maria and those who accompanied them were on the way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn forest massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police. Mr. Obama also praised Kaczynski as having played a key role in the Solidarity movement that won economic reforms and free elections.

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