Russia Reopens Cases against Lithuanians Who Refused to Serve in Soviet Army

Russia Reopens Cases against Lithuanians Who Refused to Serve in Soviet Army

Russia is continuing its aggression towards former Soviet Union states–reopening criminal cases against Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet Army in 1990-1991.

Lithuania warned everyone on the list not to travel to non-EU and non-NATO countries. International law experts believe the lawsuit will not be upheld.

“We have received such request for legal assistance,” said Vilma Mazone of the Prosecutor General’s Office. “As the activities, which Russia lists among criminal deeds, is not criminalized in Lithuania, the request for legal assistance will not be processed.”

Erika Leonaitè, an international law expert in Lithuania’s capital of Vilinius, said the lawsuit does not hold any legal basis and that it proves Russia “does not recognize the fact of Lithuania’s occupation and questions its restoration of independence on 11 March 1990.” Lithuania said nationals did not have an obligation to serve in the Soviet army before and after independence.

“The obligation for Lithuanian citizens to serve in the armed forces of the USSR was a consequence of Soviet aggression against Lithuania and, from the viewpoint of international law, is completely illegitimate,” she said, adding,

Moreover, forcing people, who held Lithuanian citizenship before 15 June 1940, and their offspring to serve in the armed forces of the USSR during the occupation is to be regarded as a war crime according to international humanitarian law. Even more absurd is to claim that citizens of the independent Republic of Lithuania have a duty to serve in the army of a foreign state, the Soviet Union.

She went on to say that “one must stress that when the USSR annexed the territory of Lithuania, it did not abolish the latter’s statehood and did not acquire any rights to the Lithuanian territory.” Consequently, Leonaitè asserted, “citizens of the Republic of Lithuania were not bound by duties to the Soviet Union, including the duty to serve in its armed forces. So there is no basis to talk about their liability for refusing to serve in the Soviet army, either before or after 11 March 1990.”

Lithuania declared independence from Russia in March 1990. Over 1,500 men decided not to join the Soviet Army. Men hid from officials, but many were arrested. The outstanding warrants were dropped when the Soviet Union collapsed, however.

Lithuania refuses to forget the war crimes the Soviet Union committed against the people. In March, Lithuania arrested 45-year-old Russian Yuri Mel over alleged 1991 war crimes after “[F]ourteen civilians died and hundreds were injured when Soviet Forces attacked the Vilnius television tower on January 13, 1991.”

Lithuania was the first Soviet state to secede from the Soviet Union in 1990.


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