Lithuanian court sentences former Soviet defense minister in absentia to 10 years for January 1991 violence
A court in Vilnius has convicted former USSR Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov of war crimes and crimes against humanity, sentencing him in absentia to 10 years in prison. He is being held responsible for the events on January 13, 1991, when Soviet troops stormed a television tower in Vilnius after Lithuania declared its independence from Moscow in March 1990. The soldiers killed 14 civilians in the raid and injured more than 600 people.
According to prosecutors, Yazov ordered the Soviet military to develop a plan in late 1990 to return Lithuania to the USSR, including a list of strategic sites that needed to be seized. This planning resulted in “aggression from the Soviet Union and an armed conflict in Lithuania,” state officials argued.
KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov was also convinced in the same case and sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison. Lithuanian officials have charged 67 citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine for crimes related to “Soviet aggression,” though only two Russian citizens have come before courts, and the rest have been tried in absentia.
The Russian government has formally refused to cooperate in this case and rejected Lithuania’s request to question former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev about the decision making that led up to the deaths in January 1991.