January 13 victim calls for Gorbachev as court witness

  • 2016-05-11

A plea was submitted to the Vilnius court dealing with the January 13 coup case to question the Soviet Union's former president Mikhail Gorbachev as a witness.

The plea was submitted by Robertas Povilaitis who has been listed a victim the case. He lost his father Apolinaras Povilaitis during the violence in January 1991.

Povilaitis' lawyer said that a testimony from Gorbachev as the USSR’s former president and supreme commander of armed forces could be highly significant to establish whether the Soviets had investigated the January 13 events on an institutional level, and identified persons responsible for the attacks and other key circumstances.

Furthermore, the lawyer noted that charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity had been brought against the Soviet Union's former defence minister, Dmitriy Yaxov, former Soviet interior minister, Boris Pugo, former Soviet State Security Committee chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, plus other former top-ranking officials.

"Both Yazov and Pugo were directly subordinate to Gorbachev, therefore, the latter may have information about the actions and decisions taken by the persons and the group of accomplices they organized," said the lawyer.

Povilaitis has also turned to the Lithuanian Prosecutor General's Office to list Gorbachev as a special witness.

In 2016, Lithuania marked 25 years since the January 13 of 1991 when 14 unarmed civilians were killed by the actions of Soviet troops outside the press center, the Television Tower, and the Lithuanian Radio and Television Building.

Some 65 persons have been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The case went to court this January. It is one of the biggest criminal trials in the history independent Lithuania in terms of its volume and number of defendants. 

All of the defendants, except for two, stand trial in absentia.

In 1999, six persons were sentenced in the January 13 trial for founding anti-state organisations and other crimes.