News

2019.09.04 17:30

Lithuania seeks to protect its judges from Russian prosecution with EP resolution

BNS2019.09.04 17:30

Lithuania is initiating a resolution in the European Parliament that would condemn the investigations launched by Russia against the judges who heard the high-profile case in Vilnius, which convicted 67 Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the Soviet crackdown on January 13, 1991.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, who is currently in Brussels, and Lithuanian MEP Juozas Olekas announced the move on Wednesday.

Nausėda said he discussed the issue with European Parliament President David-Maria Sassoli.

"The honorary Parliament president responded that a resolution in the European Parliament, which condemns such actions, is fully understandable," Nausėda told journalists.

In July 2018, the Russian Investigative Committee launched a criminal investigation against Lithuanian judges and prosecutors who worked on the January 13 case in Lithuania, and in March, Russia charged former Lithuanian prosecutor Simonas Slapsinskas in absentia for alleged unlawful prosecution of its citizens.

Read more: Vilnius warns EU over Russia's actions against Lithuanian judges

Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called Russian law enforcement's actions "open pressure on Lithuania, its courts and law enforcement officers".

In March 2019, 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, former Soviet defence minister, who was sentenced in absentia to ten years in prison.

Read more: Lithuanian to sue Gorbachev for Soviet crackdown in Vilnius

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.

Almost 700 people are deemed victims in this 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.