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2021.07.31 09:00

Lithuania marks 30th anniversary of Medininkai border post massacre

LRT.lt2021.07.31 09:00

On this day 30 years ago, Lithuania suffered one of the bloodiest incidents on its path towards independence, when Soviet special police attacked a border post in Medininkai.

In the early hours of July 31, 1991, seven Lithuanian officers were shot and killed at Medininkai border post by the Russian special police forces (OMON), just months after the January 13, 1991, Soviet crackdown in Vilnius.

Lithuania had declared independence form the Soviet Union in March 1990 and was trying to build up state institutions and take charge of its territory. It built customs posts along its borders with Belarus and Kaliningrad, which became one of the symbols of its struggle for independence.

Moscow, however, saw the posts as illegitimate and sent OMON troops to harass and attack them. According to a timeline published by the Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, they attacked Lithuanian border officials on 18 separate occasions in the run-up to the massacre, sometimes beating them and burning down the posts.

On July 31, OMON troops from Riga attacked the border post in Medininkai, which was on the highway between Vilnius and Minsk. It is thought that the attack took place around 04:00 because a watch belonging to one of the victims stopped at this hour.

Mindaugas Balavakas and Algimantas Juozakas (officers of the rapid response team ARAS), Juozas Janonis and Algirdas Kazlauskas (traffic police officers), Antanas Musteikis and Stanislovas Orlavicius (customs officers) were killed.

Customs officer Ričardas Rabavičius suffered a head injury and died in hospital on August 2. The only survivor, customs officer Tomas Šernas, sustained severe brain damage and became disabled.

Konstantin Mikhailov, a former OMON officer, has been sentenced to life for his involvement in the Medininkai massacre, while three other former OMON officers, Cheslav Mlynik, Andrey Laktyonov and Alexander Ryzhov, have been issued the maximum sentence in absentia as Russia refuses to extradite them.

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