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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4 Conscripts Charged in Theft From Polish Crash Site

APRussians and Poles working at the crash site of the Polish presidential Tu-154 plane in Smolensk on April 13.

The Investigative Committee charged four conscripts on Tuesday with stealing bank cards from the site of a plane crash that killed Poland's president and 95 other people.

The move was the first official Russian acknowledgment that soldiers were suspected of theft from the site of the April 10 crash in Smolensk.

The four conscripts who were at the crash site have been charged with theft for withdrawing 60,345 rubles ($2,073) from the cards, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

The committee did not specify whom the cards belonged to, but Polish officials said earlier that it was Andrzej Przewoznik, a 46-year-old historian and official in charge of memorial sites. The money was spent on food and alcohol, Itar-Tass reported, citing unidentified Smolensk regional officials.

All four suspects have pleaded guilty and are actively cooperating with the investigation, the Investigative Committee said.

The four soldiers were identified as Igor Pustovar, Artur Pankratov, Yury Sankov and Sergei Syrov. All but Pustovar had criminal records of theft, counterfeiting and robbery, respectively, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

The suspects face up to five years in prison if convicted.

The suspects are being kept under close watch at their military unit but have not been detained, the Investigative Committee said. The soldiers were attached to the airport in Smolensk.

The Defense Ministry said it would apologize for the theft and pay back the stolen money if the soldiers were found guilty.

"As soon as the suspected servicemen are found guilty and held responsible by a court, the Defense Ministry will make an apology and will be ready to immediately compensate the stolen funds," said ministry spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov, Itar-Tass reported.

Polish officials said Monday that 6,000 Polish zlotys ($1,728) was withdrawn using a card that belonged to Przewoznik. They said the thieves failed to obtain cash from another card that belonged to Przewoznik.

Polish government spokesman Pawel Gras apologized for initially blaming the theft on OMON police officers and even made a point of switching into Russian for his apology.

“Please forgive me, it was a simple mistake,” Gras said at a news conference in Warsaw. He thanked the police for their help in securing the crash site.

(Reuters, AP, MT)