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2019.09.16 12:00

Appeals against Soviet crackdown ruling to begin in Lithuania

BNS 2019.09.16 12:00

Appeals against the landmark ruling that sentenced 67 citizens of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Soviet crackdown on January 13, 1991, are set to begin by the end of this year. Both the prosecutors and the defendants are planning to appeal the ruling.

"We plan to do that this year, closer to the end of this year," Lina Nemeikaite, spokeswoman for Vilnius Regional Court, told BNS.

The court ruling's translation into the Russian language is about to be finished and those convicted will be able to get acquainted with it. Then, they will have another 20 days to file appeals.

Only two defendants – the former Soviet officers Yuri Mel, who is in custody in Lithuania, and Genady Ivanov, who lives in Vilnius and is free at the moment – attended the court hearing. Other defendants stood trial in absentia as Russia and Belarus refused to extradite them.

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

In total, 58 appeals have already been received as part of the January 13 case.

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 also 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.

However, prosecutors are asking for tougher sentences, while the defendants are also planning to appeal the ruling.

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

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.