Vytautas Landsbergis, the first head of state of Lithuania after secession from the Soviet Union in 1990, has caused minor controversy by refusing to participate in January 13 commemoration events in parliament.
Vytautas Landsbergis
© DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

Landsbergis, considered one of the architects of Lithuania's independence and the chairman of the Supreme Council - Reconstituent Seimas in the early 1990s, said he would still be part of the commemoration events, but for the first time will not attend those hosted by the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas).

On January 13, Lithuania is commemorating the 25th anniversary of events in 1991, when Soviet forces attempted to crush the country that had declared independence from the USSR. Soviet troops were confronted by peaceful demonstrators who surrounded the parliament building and the TV Tower in Vilnius. Fourteen people died on the night of January 13, hundreds were injured.

"It does not depend on me alone, on my masters as well," Landsbergis told BNS on Tuesday, asked why he was not attending the commemoration events in the Seimas.

Landsbergis was nominated this year for the annual Freedom Award, traditionally conferred by the Lithuanian parliament on January 13 on individuals who contributed to democracy and freedom in Central-Eastern Europe, but the proposal was voted down.

Asked whether the snub was the primary reason for his decision, Landsbergis replied that it was just one event in "in a chain of attempts to rewrite history and smear struggle for freedom".

Seimas Speaker Loreta Grožinienė said that she respected Landsbergis' decision, adding that she hoped it would not overshadow the occasion.

Meanwhile Gediminas Kirkilas, the social democrat deputy speaker, commented to TV3 that Landsbergis' "failure to overcome his personal ambition" was a discredit to himself.

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