Russia reopens criminal cases against Lithuanians who refused to fight in Soviet army

  • 2014-09-09
  • From wire reports, VILNIUS

(photo: twitter)

Russian has reopened criminal proceedings against  Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet army after Lithuania gained independence nearly 25 years ago.

Lithuanians who abandoned the army at the request of the Lithuanian govenrment have been urged not to leave the EU or NATO countries for fear of prosecution.

Up to 1,562 young people refused forced service in the Soviet army after 11 March 1990 when Lithuania cdeclared independence, statsitstics from Lithuania's Ministry of Defense shows. A total of 67 were taken to Soviet military units by force, 20 were sentenced to jail terms, three faced criminal charges and three died.

Some of the young men were abducted and transported to Soviet army units by force, some were sent to jail, a few died during persecution by Soviet army officers, while others returned to the Soviet military units in fears for their own or their family's safety, some escaped the Soviet army by hiding.

Another 1,465 were forced to go into hiding, change their place of residence and leave families to avoid forced service or repressions by the Soviet army or the Soviet authorities.

Lithuanias Proseuctror General Office has said no rules have been broken and won't be reviewing the case.

Chief Advisor to the president on interior policy Virginija Budiene believes Russia committed a war crime by forcing people to fight in the army.

"Those people did not commit a crime against Lithuania or the international law, on the contrary - they are our heroes. Russia is the one that committed war crimes by occupying Lithuania and forcing people to serve in the occupying army," Budiene told Ziniu Radijas radio.

The chief advisor noted that based on the Hague and Geneva Conventions regarding the protection of civilians in the time of war, the occupying state cannot force people protected by the conventions to serve in the occupant's armed forces.

"In this case exactly that country committed a war crime by forcing people to fight. We will make every effort to protect our people, especially our heroes in question."

The chief advisor noted that the Act of Independence of Lithuania adopted on 16 February 1918 by the Council of Lithuania and the resolution Concerning the Restoration of the Independent State of Lithuania adopted in 1920 by the Constituent Assembly (Seimas) have always been in force and are the constitutional basis of Lithuania.

"According to the provisions of the 11 March 1990 Act (on the Restoration of an Independent State of Lithuania - ELTA), sovereign powers abolished by foreign forces in 1940 have been reinstated," said the chief advisor.