Russia has announced it will conduct its own investigation into the attempted coup of January 13, 1991, when Soviet armed forces organized an assault against peaceful protesters in Vilnius. The move is not conductive to effective cooperation and will be used as a propaganda tool, the Lithuanian government believes.
January 13, 1991
© K.Svėrio nuotr.

"By such statements, (the Russian administration) is again aiming to bid the societies of Russia and Lithuania against each other, especially since we can recall the Russian society's reaction after January 13 when nearly one million Russians went to the streets in protest of the army's actions against peaceful civilians," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told BNS.

The minister notes that Russia has been ignoring Lithuania's requests for legal assistance in the January 13 probe, but decided to launched its own investigation to be conducted by an institution set up by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Linkevičius' words, this indicates that the aim is to "politicize a specific criminal probe".

"Until now, Russia has been ignoring repeated Lithuanian requests for legal assistance, so (the probe) may be aimed at diverting attention from the investigation. In this sense, the unwillingness to cooperate and provide legal assistance on hand and the attempt to organize something propaganda-like on the other (…) is an attempt to use to political tool to politicize a specific criminal probe. This is pointless and legally incorrect," said the minister.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman has said that hearings would be held in early April in connection to the January 13, 1991, case heard at a Vilnius court. She added that Russia is interested in investigating the death of one Soviet soldier during the events.

The Vilnius court began hearing the case in January this year. It's one of the biggest criminal proceedings in post-independence Lithuania, with over 60 people standing trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. All defendants, except two, will be tried in absentia. The majority of the defendants live in Russia and Belarus that refused to provide legal assistance to Lithuania.

In early hours of January 13, 1991, the Soviet Union's military units attacked the Vilnius Television Tower and the Radio and Television Committee Building, killing 14 unarmed civilians and injuring hundreds more.

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