Mikhail Gorbachev has charged six Lithuanian citizens with war crimes

Six Lithuanian citizens filed a complaint against former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for war crimes.

Their lawsuit relates to bloody clashes in Vilnius in January 1991 after the Baltic state declared its independence. During the attack, 14 unarmed civilians were killed and more than 700 people were wounded.

Ahead of the 31st anniversary of the clashes, relatives of the victims renewed their calls for justice.

The families accused Gorbachev of controlling the Soviet army and failing to prevent an “international crime” against Lithuanian citizens.

In 2019, a Lithuanian court convicted dozens of Soviet-era officials of war crimes, but prosecutors refused to investigate the former Soviet leader.

“It is clear that the actions of the military forces would not have been possible without coordination with Gorbachev,” said Robertas Povelitis, whose father was one of the 14 victims.

Povelitis believes the trial is “very important” and says that “justice is not completed” until Gorbachev is held responsible.

After 50 years of Soviet occupation, Lithuania rallied for independence and tried to prevent the Soviet Union from reimposing its constitution.

Thousands of pro-independence activists gathered around the Radio and Television Tower and other major buildings in the capital on January 13, 1991.

Most of the 67 people convicted of war crimes over the violent crackdown were tried in absentia, including Former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, who passed away in 2020.

While many Soviet-era Lithuanian officials were imprisoned for their actions, other suspects remained off-limits in Russia and Belarus. The refusal to investigate Gorbachev, now 90, angered the families of the victims.

The Soviet Union later recognized the independence of the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – in August and September of 1991. They have since become members of NATO and the European Union.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo