The General Prosecutor’s Office of Lithuania is on the verge of issuing European arrest warrants for 79 suspects in the case over the January 1991 attempted coup in Vilnius, delfi.lt reports.
According to Simonas Slapšinskas, a senior prosecutor, the suspects are citizens of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, who held leading positions in the ministries of defense and interior, officers of the Committee of the State Security (KGB), activists of the Lithuanian Communist Party along with those involved in capturing the Vilnius TV tower, the Press House and other objects in Vilnius and other cities.
It is noteworthy that General Vladimir Uskhopchik, one of the major suspects, is holed up in Belarus. At that time he was a division commander and comandant of the Vilnius garrison. Since 1991 he has been living in Belarus and even took a position of Deputy Defense Minister for a while. But the Belarusian authorities denied a request for his delivering to Lithuania.
‘Ukraine was the only country that responded to our request for legal assistance and served writs on their recognition as suspects to two persons. Russia and Belarus keep refusing to meet our demands,’ Mr Slapšinskas said.
European arrest warrants are expected to be the final step in the investigation of the case, which is planned in March. ‘We hope 700 volumes of the case will be filed to court this year,‘ Mr Slapšinskas said.
If the defendants fail to appear for trial, the proceedings will be held in absentia. Those two people residing in Ukraine have not come to Lithuania for giving evidence yet.
These 79 persons are accused of five articles of the Lithuanian Criminal Code, i.e. prohibited treatment of human beings, killing persons protected by international humanitarian law, mutilation, prohibited military attacks on civilians and illegal military acts. According to the letter of law, ife imprisonment has been imposed for the crimes mentioned above.
The January Events took place in Lithuania on January 11-13, 1991 in the aftermath of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania. As a result of Soviet military actions, 13 civilians were killed and around 140 injured. The events were centered in its capital, Vilnius, along with related actions in its suburbs and in the cities of Alytus, Šiauliai, Varėna, and Kaunas.