Acting Prime Minister Bill English has joined the list of international leaders offering condolences to Poland after a plane carrying the country's president and many other dignitaries crashed in Russia.

President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country's highest military and civilian leaders were killed as the presidential plane crashed yesterday on its approach through thick fog to land in Western Russia, the Associated Press reported.

Officials said all 97 people aboard were killed.

Mr English said it was a tragic event and the New Zealand Government had sent a message of condolence to the Polish Government and the people of Poland.

"Our thoughts are with the entire Polish nation on the passing of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria Kaczynska, along with so many senior and deeply respected Polish figures who have devoted their professional lives to their country," Mr English said.

"This tragedy will be felt deeply by the people of Poland. The New Zealand Government shares its sympathy with the Polish community in New Zealand and around the world as they grieve."

The plane was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre in Katyn forest of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.

The crash devastated the upper echelons of Poland's political and military establishments. On board were the army chief of staff, the navy chief commander, and heads of the air and land forces.

Also killed were the national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, Olympic Committee head, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said.

- NZPA