Updated at 18:18,16-07-2018

Prosecutors Question Soviet-era General Wanted by Lithuania


A Soviet-era general wanted by Lithuania over his role in Soviet troops’ violent raids in Vilnius in January 1991 was questioned at the Prosecutor General's Office in Minsk a few days ago.

A spokesperson for the Office said that Uladzimir Uskhopchyk had been interviewed at the request of Lithuanian law-enforcement agencies.

The request was sent to Belarus following Alyaksandr Lukashenka's visit to Vilnius in September 2009.
The spokesperson said that the interview records had been sent to Lithuania.

Lithuania has been seeking the extradition of Mr. Uskhopchyk on murder and other charges for years, but the Belarusian authorities said earlier this year that the handover of a Belarusian citizen to Lithuania was impossible.

Born in 1946, General Uskhopchyk served as commander of the Vilnius military garrison in 1991. He is believed to have sent troops to storm the city's TV tower and television studios on January 13. The raid, witnessed by numerous Western reporters and filmed by Lithuanian and foreign television cameras, left 14 dead and dozens wounded. The attacking forces ran over unarmed civilians with tanks and fired on crowds that stood in the way.

Criminal proceedings were instituted against Mr. Uskhopchyk in 1994, but he earlier fled to Belarus, where he was appointed commander of a motorized rifle division in Brest in June 1991 and then served as commander of an army corps based in Babruysk between 1992 and 2000. In May 2000, Mr. Lukashenka appointed him deputy minister of defense. The Lithuanian government responded with a note of protest, but Mr. Uskhopchyk served in the position until February 2004, when he was sent into retirement and awarded the first-class Order for Service to the Motherland in recognition for his "long faithful service and exemplary performance of duties."

In February 2001, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Lithuania officially placed Mr. Uskhopchyk on a wanted list.

Speaking to reporters in Vilnius in September 2009, Mr. Lukashenka said, "If you have a claim against him as a Soviet general, Russia, not Belarus, is the legal successor of the Soviet Union. If you have a claim against some people who live in our country, then there are international rules in accordance with which you may make claims."

"Bring case material and we’ll be making appropriate decisions," Mr. Lukashenka added.