Court sentences Soviet butcher to life

  • 2001-04-12
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - On April 5, the Siauliai Area Court in northwest Lithuania issued a verdict finding a former officer of the NKVD - the forerunner to the KGB - Petras Raslanas, guilty of genocide against Lithuanian civilians and sentenced him in absentia to life in prison.

The court sentenced Raslanas, 87, to be incarcerated in a high-security labor facility. However, there is no doubt that Russia, where Raslanas currently resides, will not extradite him, say observers.

The former high-ranking Soviet state security official was convicted of organizing the murder of 76 political prisoners near the village of Rainiai, in the Telsiai region of western Lithuania, on June 24, 1941. Raslanas was the head of the Telsiai NKVD.

Raslanas gave orders to a Soviet army unit to kill the "nationalists." But only a handful of the "enemies of the Soviet Union" were killed with bullets. The rest died after being tortured in a terrifying manner.

Soviet soldiers cut off the men's genitals and put them in their mouths.

Soviet activists cut off ears, tongues, scalps, took out eyes, pulled off fingernails, and made belts from the victims' skins and used them to tie their hands while the victims were still alive.

Some of these "nationalists" were teenage school pupils. The victims' only guilt was the fact that they belonged to patriotic organizations in independent Lithuania before the Soviet occupation of 1940.

The court's verdict was read out to a courtroom audience, including the victims' family members. Some of them burst into tears.

Raslanas, a citizen of Russia, did not attend the hearings. The Lithuanian-Russian legal assistance treaty states that the two countries should not surrender their citizens.

Raslanas currently lives in the town of Balashikha near Moscow.

"This crime was very easy to prove. We have documents from 1942, which were written by Raslanas himself. Raslanas wrote about his organized massacre to the communist authorities. He explains that the 'nationalists' were killed out of fear that the coming German army could set them free," Arvydas Anusauskas, researcher with the Genocide and Resistance Center, told The Baltic Times.

The case was opened by Lithuanian prosecutors in 1988 after Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika created the conditions necessary for it to begin.

Prosecutors questioned the two main suspects in the Rainiai massacre, NKVD officers Raslanas and Nachmanas Dusanskis. In 1992 Raslanas sold his flat in Vilnius, divorced his wife and left for Russia. The Lithuanian authorities did nothing to stop him.

Since then he has continued to receive a high pension as a World War II veteran while refusing to communicate with Lithuanian prosecutors.

Anusauskas tried to explain this absurd situation. "The law on crimes of genocide was adopted only in 1992. Only then did Lithuanian prosecutors got a legal basis for prosecuting Raslanas."

He does not think that Russia will send Raslanas back to Lithuania.

The other suspect, Dusanskis, a former officer of the KGB, lives in Israel. In 1990 the chief of the KGB in Vilnius decided to send him to Israel for good because, he wrote, "there are accusations in the Lithuanian media that Dusanskis participated in the Rainiai events."

The Israeli authorities also refuse to cooperate with Lithuanian prosecutors.

"Witnesses say different things about Dusanskis. Some say he participated in the massacre. Some say he didn't," said Anusauskas.

When he was questioned in the late 1980s, Dusanskis said that he was on vacation in the Crimea on the day of the massacre. Raslanas never mentioned Dusanskis when he spoke about Rainiai.

"But what we can say is that Dusanskis sent those people to death. He ordered their arrests. More is known about Dusanskis' activities after World War II. He participated in the Rainiai-style torture of the Lithuanian partisan leader Adolfas Ramanauskas and other crimes," Anusauskas said.

In 2000, the Genocide and Resistance Center issued a book called "Rainiu Tragedija." It is full of testimonies from witnesses to the Rainiai massacre and photographs of the victims.