2020.09.16 18:00

Lithuania will no longer try to summon Gorbachev to court

BNS2020.09.16 18:00

A court in Lithuania has begun looking at 61 appeals filled in the January 13 case, which saw 67 people sentenced for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1991 Soviet crackdown in Vilnius.

Appeals against the March 2019 ruling were filed by the convicts, their lawyers, as well as the prosecutors, victims, and civil plaintiffs.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals said it would no longer seek to summon ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to testify in the case, saying that unsuccessful attempts had already been made.

Read more: Occupied but not silenced. January 13, 1991: the night when Soviets stormed LRT

The court will no longer seek to summon ex-Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, who died in February, but the criminal process against him would continue.

Lawyers representing the 59 convicts in the case are seeking their acquittal, and the prosecutors want tougher sentences, the requalification of the charges and pecuniary damages.

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

All but two of the defendants were sentenced in absentia as Russia and Belarus refused to extradite them.

Among those convicted was Dmitry Yazov, a 94-year-old former Soviet defence minister, who was sentenced to ten years in prison in absentia. He died last February.

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.

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 try to depose the government of Lithuania which had declared independence on March 11, 1990.