Ukrainian man asks for lighter sentence in Lithuania's 1991 Soviet crackdown case

  • 2022-09-06
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Oleksandr Radkevich, a Ukrainian citizen convicted by a Vilnius court in the January 1991 Soviet crackdown case, is asking the Lithuanian Court of Appeal to release him from criminal responsibility or at least reduce his sentence.

Nerijus Meilutis, the Court of Appeal's president who is hearing the man's appeal, announced this on Tuesday. 

The court also announced that it had received information that Radkevich, previously a member of Ukraine's territorial defense forces, was serving in the country's regular forces. 

Several years ago, Vilnius Regional Court sentenced the man, who is now 53, to four years in prison for driving a tank involved in the bloody January 13, 1991 events at the Lithuanian capital's Press House.

The Court of Appeal has postponed all previous hearings in Radkevich's case due to the appellant's absence. With the war going on in Ukraine, the court had no information about whether he had been properly informed about the proceedings in Vilnius.

At the previous hearing in June, it was announced that Radkevich had notified the court that he was unable to attend the hearing in Vilnius due to the ongoing fighting in his country, sending in documents, including a territorial defense volunteer certificate, to prove this. 

Arvydas Verpecinskas, Radkevich's lawyer, then emphasized that his client was not in hiding and that he was requesting remote hearings because of the war in Ukraine.

The Court of Appeal then reminded the lawyer that the request had already been rejected.  

The Supreme Court of Greece ruled on February 9 not to extradite Radkevich, who had been detained in the country on a European arrest warrant, to Lithuania and he was released.

The man appealed his sentence in the so-called January 13 case to the Court of Appeal of Lithuania last December. He had the right to do so even though the verdict had become final, because his case was heard by the court of first instance in absentia.

In his letter to the Court of Appeal, he said that his case in Lithuania could be political in nature, referring to Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis' statement that it was "Lithuania's Nuremberg case". 

The Ukrainian national is one of 67 people handed prison sentences in the mass trial. The majority of the defendants were convicted in absentia as Russia and Belarus refused to extradite them. 

Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more were injured when the Soviet troops stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius in the early hours of January 13, 1991.

The Soviet Union used military force in its attempt to remove the legitimate government of Lithuania which declared independence on March 11, 1990.