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‘Despicable trial’: Russian FM slams Lithuania's verdict to 94yo ex-Soviet-minister in 1991 events

‘Despicable trial’: Russian FM slams Lithuania's verdict to 94yo ex-Soviet-minister in 1991 events
Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized Lithuania's trial on the 1991 riots in the country, which was then a part of the Soviet Union, claiming it was politically motivated and violated basic principles of law.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Lithuanian court sentenced to 67 people to jail, including Russian nationals, over their alleged role in civilian deaths in the January 1991 riots near the Vilnius TV center. Among them was 94-year-old former Soviet Minister of Defense, Dmitry Yazov, who was jailed for 10 years in absentia for “exercise of Soviet aggression,” and the then-head of the KGB special purpose unit, Alpha, Mikhail Golovatov who got 12 years in absentia.

‘Despicable trial’: Russian FM slams Lithuania's verdict to 94yo ex-Soviet-minister in 1991 events

During the court proceedings, “the basic principles of law were violated, most importantly that of inadmissibility of retroactive application of law,” the ministry said in a statement. “The evidence proving that Soviet officers were not involved in civilian deaths on that tragic day has been ignored.”

While Russian diplomats and journalists weren’t allowed at the court hearing, the ministry called the decision “extremely unfriendly” and “provocative” action, proving political motivation of the “despicable trial.”

READ MORE: Russia announces sanctions over Lithuanian memorials policy

Moscow also promised to provide all the necessary assistance to Russian nationals who fell victim to Lithuania's “lawlessness.”

Since commencement in 2016, the court hearings on the so-called January Events of 1991, in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, became one of the highest-profile cases in the country.

Back in March 1990 the Republic of Lithuania became the first to declare independence from the Soviet Union, but Moscow considered it unlawful. After the protests reached climax in January 1991, the tank columns entered Vilnius to contain disorder. Soviet troops captured many administrative buildings in the capital and other Lithuanian cities, but the storming of the Vilnius TV tower resulted in violent clashes, where 14 civilians were killed and hundreds were injured. Lithuanian prosecutors claim people were killed by the Soviet troops, though many participants insisted that shots were fired from the roofs.

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