Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, back, is seen with former Soviet defence minister Marshal Dmitry Yazov during an award ceremony in Moscow’s Kremlin on November 2 2009. Picture: REUTERS/IVAN SEKRETAREV
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, back, is seen with former Soviet defence minister Marshal Dmitry Yazov during an award ceremony in Moscow’s Kremlin on November 2 2009. Picture: REUTERS/IVAN SEKRETAREV

Moscow — On Thursday, Russia’s foreign ministry accused Lithuania of an unfriendly and provocative act, a day after a Lithuanian court found a former Soviet defence minister guilty of war crimes for his role in a 1991 crackdown in Lithuania.

A Vilnius court sentenced Dmitry Yazov, 94, in absentia to 10 years in prison. He is the highest-ranking person on a list of 67 former military officials and army officers being sentenced after the three-year trial.

“We characterise the given actions as extremely unfriendly and essentially provocative, demonstrating the bias and political motivation of this disgraceful judgment,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

It accused the court of ignoring witness testimony and not allowing Russian diplomats to attend the trial.

“The attempts by the authorities to rig obvious facts using legal manipulations simply reflect the deconstructive course of the current Lithuanian leadership with regards to Russia,” the foreign ministry said.

Lithuania became the first Soviet republic in March 1990 to declare independence from Moscow. The Soviet Union was formally dissolved in December 1991.

Fourteen civilians were killed by the Soviet army in January 1991, prosecutors say, all but one of them during the storming of the state TV headquarters and TV tower by Soviet paratroopers. More than 700 others were wounded.

Russia refused to co-operate with the trial, calling it illegal and in violation of the fundamental principles of justice, and former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev declined to testify. 

Reuters