VILNIUS- Lithuanianprosecutors hope to close the investigation of the 17-year-old murder case ofseven Lithuanian officers by theend of this year. The main suspects being former Soviet Union's OMON specialpurpose police hitmen.
On the eve of the 17thanniversary since the tragedy, Prosecutor of the Organized Crime and CorruptionDepartment under the Prosecutor General's Office of Lithuania AlgimantasKliuknka told the press that investigations in the case will be concluded byNov. or Dec. of this year.
The prosecutor also announced Russia's refusal to extradite suspects, formerOMON members Ceslov Mlynik and Andrej Laktionov to Lithuania, because the men are Russian citizens, saying that countries do notextradite their own citizens under existing agreements.
The decision on the extradition of another suspected OMON hitman AleksanderRyzhov is still pending. Ryzhov is currently detained on suspicions of havingcommitted another crime.
In memory of the attack on July 31, 1991, remembrance services were held tomark year seventeen of the tragedy.
Only one of the customsofficers survived the attack, albeit having suffered heavy injuries.
Only one of the suspects in the Medininkai murder case, namely 40-year-oldLatvian citizen Konstantin Mikhailov (formerly Nikulin), has been arrested inconnection with the case. Mikhailov has been presented with charges of heavy crime, i.e. first degree murder of two ormore persons. The suspect denies having participated in the killings.
A pre-trial investigation had established that the first seven police andcustoms officers of independent Lithuaniawere killed and the sole survivor Tomas Sernas was seriously wounded as aresult of serving their duty.
The data collected in the process of the pre-trial investigation allow theprosecutors to suspect that the crime was committed by hitmen of the formerSoviet Union's militia special operations unit OMON from Riga, who werevisiting the OMON base in Vilnius onJuly 30, 1991. Another OMON militia group which arrived to Vilnius from Riga blasted explosivesthat same night near the Soviet Union's 42nd division headquarters building onSapiega Street.
The investigation of the manslaughter at Medininkai checkpoint is slowed by thefact that the suspects and a lot of important witnesses reside in Russia.
The seven officers are believed to have been killed in Medininkai to causeconfusion at the customs of Lithuania that had just declared its independence.