2019.08.05 13:00

58 appeals filed in the case of 1991 Soviet crackdown in Vilnius

Jonas Kisielius, BNS 2019.08.05 13:00

Fifty-eight appeals have been filed after a landmark ruling in the so-called January 13 case which sentenced 67 people for participating in the Soviet Union's violent crackdown in Vilnius in 1991. Both prosecutors and defendants disagree with the ruling.

It is not clear yet when the motions will be heard by Lithuania's Court of Appeals, according to Rūta Trimailovienė, a judge's assistant at Vilnius Regional Court.

“Procedural actions defined by the law are now taking place as part of the case, and they take time due to the scope of the case and the judicial ruling,” she has told BNS.

In late March, a panel of three judges found 67 citizens of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and issued prison sentences ranging from four to 14 years.

Among those convicted was Dmitry Yazov, 94, a former Soviet defence minister who was sentenced in absentia to ten years in prison.

Vladimir Uskhopchik, the Soviet Army's former Vilnius garrison commander, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and Mikhail Golovatov, a former KGB officer, received 12 years.

Neither the prosecutors, nor the lawyers for the defendants agree with the ruling. The latter said after the initial ruling that they would appeal with the Court of Appeals. Prosecutors are asking for slightly tougher sentences and also lodged appeals over some of the rejected civilian lawsuits.

Almost 700 people are deemed victims in the case, and almost 1,000 people were questioned as witnesses.

The majority of the defendants were sentenced in absentia as Russia and Belarus have refused to extradite them.

Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more were wounded when the Soviet troops stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius in the early hours of January 13, 1991.

The Soviet Union used military force to overthrow the legitimate government of Lithuania, which declared independence on March 11, 1990.