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Relatives of four people who died in the Soviet army's crackdown on unarmed civilians in Vilnius in January 1991 have appealed against a Vilnius court's decision to drop a civil case they initiated against Mikhail Gorbachev, the then Soviet leader, over his role in the events.
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
© AFP / Scanpix

Vilnius City District Court ruled to drop the civil case against Gorbachev shortly after his death on August 30, saying that the lawsuit had been brought specifically against the former Soviet president and succession after his death was impossible.

The plaintiffs have filed a separate appeal against the ruling.

"They request that Vilnius City District Court's ruling be overturned and the matter to be resolved on the merits," Lina Nemeikaite, spokeswoman for Vilnius Regional Court, told BNS on Monday.

"The court is also asked to suspend the case until the legal successor or the circumstances that prevented the succession from taking place become clear," she added.

The plaintiffs' separate appeal is still pending.

The relatives of Vidas Maciulevicius, Algimantas Petras Kavoliukas, Virginijus Druskis and Apolinaras Juozas Povilaitis, the four victims of the Soviet crackdown, filed the civil lawsuit against Gorbachev earlier this year.

They seek to prove that Gorbachev, as commander-in-chief of the Soviet Armed Forces, had control of the army on January 11-13, 1991, but failed to take steps to prevent an international crime of aggression from being committed.

The Soviet Union used military force in its attempt to remove the legitimate government of Lithuania which declared independence on March 11, 1990.

Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more were injured when the Soviet troops stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius in the early hours of January 13, 1991.

Vilnius City District Court last May sent the civil lawsuit's documents to the Russian Foreign Ministry, asking it to hand them to Gorbachev. The court has said recently that it has
no information about the service of the documents".

Prosecutors refused to name Gorbachev as a special witness in a criminal case over the bloody events of January 13, 1991 in Vilnius.

In 2017, Vilnius Regional Court sent a summons to Gorbachev to question him as a special witness in the mass trial, but Russia refused to serve it.

BNS
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