Strasbourg court orders Latvia to compensate WWII veteran - 2

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The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Latvia to pay World War II veteran Vasily Kononov 30,000 euros ($47,000) in damages, the court said on Thursday.
(Adds Latvia's reaction in last two paras)

MOSCOW, July 24 (RIA Novosti) - The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Latvia to pay World War II veteran Vasily Kononov 30,000 euros ($47,000) in damages, the court said on Thursday.

Kononov, 85, had originally demanded 5 million euros ($7.8 million) in compensation for being illegally held in custody by Latvia on charges of war crimes.

The ruling was made on June 19, but was only announced in full on Thursday. The court rejected Kononov's other demands, which included moral damages and compensation for the apartment and plot of land he had been forced to sell in order to pay for court expenses and medical treatment.

Kononov, 84, who led a group of resistance fighters in the Baltic state during WWII, was convicted by Latvian authorities of ordering the killing of nine villagers in 1944, with some reports saying the dead included a pregnant woman.

He admitted the killings, but said the dead were Nazi collaborators, and had been caught in crossfire. The republic was under Nazi occupation at the time of the incident.

A retired police colonel born in Latvia, Kononov was arrested in 1998 and sentenced to six years in prison in 2000 on genocide charges. In 2004, after several years of litigation, his sentence was cut to 20 months in prison and the charges changed to "war crimes." Kononov filed an appeal with the court in Strasbourg the same year.

Russia subsequently brought pressure to bear on Latvian and European authorities over the case, and in April 2004, then-Russian president, Vladimir Putin, granted Kononov Russian citizenship.

In 2007, the European court dropped all charges against Kononov, and ruled he was not guilty.

"This is my final victory, one I have been seeking for eight long years," he said then.

While Russia maintains that the Red Army liberated the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from Nazi invaders, many local residents fail to distinguish between the Nazi and later Soviet periods.

Kononov's lawyer Mikhail Ioffe said on Thursday that Kononov was satisfied with the Strasbourg court's ruling.

Latvia's representative in the Strasbourg court said the Baltic state's Foreign Ministry had familiarized itself with the court's ruling and was likely to appeal.

"I have familiarized myself with the court ruling and consider the vote to have been somewhat inconclusive - three against four. This is a very strong position from which to appeal," Inga Reine said.

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