VILNIUS, March 14 (RAPSI) – A Russian man has been detained in Lithuania on suspicion of involvement in the deadly clashes in January 1991 that followed the Baltic country’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
Yury Mel, born in 1968, was detained Wednesday on the border with the Kaliningrad Region. The Russian embassy in Lithuania will provide him with legal assistance, an embassy representative told RIA Novosti.
The prosecutor's office has asked for permission to keep him in custody for three months while the investigation continues.
Lithuania's Prosecutor General's Office has declared 79 citizens of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine suspects in the criminal case opened in the aftermath of the clashes.
They are suspected of battery, murder, endangering others’ wellbeing and taking unlawful military action against civilians. A court in Lithuania has issued European arrest warrants for the suspects who reside outside Lithuania.
The Prosecutor General's Office hopes to send the 700-volume case to court this month.
Lithuania declared independence from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990. Moscow denounced the move as illegal and put an economic blockade on the country between April and late June 1990.
In January 1991, a series of protests swept Lithuania after which Soviet military forces entered the republic. On the night of January 13, Soviet armored vehicles and tanks rolled into the center of Vilnius. Soviet troops clashed with civilians at a local TV tower, leaving 14 dead and over 600 injured.
Security personnel later claimed that the clashes were a result of a provocation, and that the victims, nearly all of whom died from gunshot wounds, were killed by sharpshooters.