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Lithuania seeks trial in absentia for Soviet commandos
by Staff Writers
Vilnius (AFP) Dec 27, 2012


Lithuanian prosecutors said Thursday they would seek to try in absentia two Russian former commandos accused of war crimes in the Baltic state in 1991, as Moscow has refused to hand them over.

The prosecution service said it had wrapped up a probe into Boleslav Makutynovich and Vladimir Razvodov, ex-members of the Soviet Union's OMON -- a force blamed for killing at least 21 people.

"Our prosecutors accuse these persons that after January 1991 they created an anti-state organisation called OMON and acted against the Lithuanian state, committing many serious crimes," prosecutor Ramutis Jancevicius told reporters.

He said the two were accused of 15 separate crimes -- including attacks on border checkpoints and shootings treated as war crimes and crimes against humanity -- and face a life sentence if found guilty.

"Prosecutors know they reside in Russia. Russia refuses to extradite them, despite our numerous requests," Jancevicius said.

He admitted he did not believe the two would come to Lithuania, but said Vilnius had sanctioned European Union warrants, which would oblige any fellow member of the 27-nation bloc to detain them.

Lithuania's independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis, 80, welcomed the announcement.

"The activities of these persons should be unambiguously assessed as crimes against the Lithuanian state, against humanity, and terrorism," he told AFP.

"It included terrorising people and officials in Vilnius and the borders, and, finally, participation in the killings," he added.

Lithuania declared independence in March 1990 after almost five decades of Soviet rule, creating the hallmarks of a free country, including a border service.

Moscow imposed an economic blockade and, when that failed, turned violent.

At least 14 civilians died and hundreds were injured in a crackdown in Vilnius on January 13, 1991.

Another seven border guards were killed that July in an assault on a customs post on Lithuania's border with Belarus.

Moscow only recognised Lithuania's independence after the failure of a Kremlin coup by hardliners in August 1991 which sped the Soviet Union's demise.

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