Vilnius convicts former Soviet commando

The domino-effect which brought the Soviet Union to its knees twenty years ago is often hailed as a bloodless victory.

But there were immediate casualties of those heady events, and a Vilnius court endeavoured to enact justice this month for assassinations of its citizens in the early days of revolution.

Konstantin Mikhailov, a former Soviet commando, was given a life sentence on 11 May, becoming the first man to be convicted for his role in what Lithuanians call the Medininkai massacre.

On July 31 1991, a team of Soviet commandos hijacked a newly created border posts at Medininkai on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border.

Seven volunteer border guards were executed, and one was wounded (the latter was paralysed for life, having been shot in the head like all the other victims).

Vilnius has been trying to bring the assailants to justice ever since.

In 2008, Latvia's supreme court agreed to extradite Mikhailov, a Latvian citizen. He was sentenced in this month's trial. The remaining suspects are Russian citizens, and Moscow refuses to cooperate in the case.

As it was, Mikhailov vigorously protested his innocence. "I did not commit this crime - I have nothing to do with these accusations," he told the court.


not shown