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Moscow Denounces 'Provocative' Acts After Lithuania Convicts Russians Of War Crimes Under Soviet Rule

Former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov (right) with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (file photo)
Former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov (right) with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (file photo)

The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused Lithuania of "unfriendly and provocative" actions after a court in Vilnius found a former Soviet military chief and a senior KGB officer guilty of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, 94, was sentenced in absentia on March 27 to 10 years in prison for his role during Moscow's 1991 crackdown on Lithuania’s independence movement.

Ex-KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison.

Yazov and Golovatov were the most prominent of 67 defendants in the trial over the momentous events that unfolded in Vilnius in January 1991, when the Soviet Union's government tried to halt the country's collapse by cracking down on the first republic to declare independence.

The other defendants -- all citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine -- were handed prison terms ranging from four to 12 years. Only two of them were present in the courtroom.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite praised the outcome of the trial, saying in a statement: "The guilty have been named for killings of people who peacefully protected freedom."

In March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the 15 Soviet republics to declare independence.

Lithuania joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, as did its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia.

The three Baltic states were independent until 1940, when they were occupied by the Soviet Union and annexed in an act never officially recognized by the United States.

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