27 Mar 2019 19:50

Lithuanian court rulings on 1991 events politicized - Russian Foreign Ministry

MOSCOW. March 27 (Interfax) - The conviction of Russian citizens by a Vilnius court in connection with events dating back to 1991 is politically motivated and based on twisted facts, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"The trial trampled on the fundamental principles of justice, primarily the unacceptability of giving retrospective effect to legal norms," the ministry said in a commentary on its website on Wednesday.

The court disregarded the evidence that the Soviet servicemen played no part in civilian deaths, the ministry said.

"The authorities' attempts to twist obvious facts using legal manipulations only reflect the current Lithuanian government's destructive policy on Russia."

The fact that no Russian embassy officials and reporters were allowed to attend the trial shows the "bias and political motive" of the court.

"We will continue providing Russians who have become victims of courts' arbitrariness with full necessary support and assistance," the ministry said.

On Wednesday, the Vilnius County Court read the sentence handed down to 67 citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, having found them guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for participating in "the Soviet aggression" on January 13, 1991. They were sentenced to imprisonment for from four to 14 years. Former USSR defense minister Dmitry Yazov is among those sentenced.

According to the official version of Vilnius, on January 13, 1991, the Soviet authorities attempted to overthrow the legitimate Lithuanian government, which had announced its independence from the USSR on March 11, 1990. Fourteen people were killed and over 1,000 injured while Soviet troops and special forces were seizing the Vilnius television tower building of the Lithuanian radio and television broadcaster.

Six people were already convicted in 1999 in the January 13 case of charges of creating anti-governmental organizations and other crimes.

Nearly 700 people were recognized as aggrieved parties in the case and about 1,000 were questioned as witnesses.

Russia refused to cooperate with Lithuania in the investigation of this case and denied the request to question former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.