Finland revokes visa for war crimes suspect

21st July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Finland said Thursday it had revoked the Schengen visa for Mikhail Golovatov, a Russian man Lithuania is seeking to arrest on charges of committing war crimes in 1992.

"The action was taken immediately after Finnish authorities were informed of a so-called SIS (Schengen Information System) warrant issued by Lithuania for the man holding the visa," the Finnish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Lithuania says Golovatov led an elite unit involved in a January 13, 1991 assault in Vilnius, amid failed Kremlin efforts to bring the Baltic state to heel after its 1990 secession from the Soviet Union.

At least 14 civilians died and hundreds were injured in the attack.

Finnish foreign ministry official Vesa Haekkinen told AFP that the revokation of the visa means little unless Golovatov tries to cross a Schengen border using the cancelled papers.

"Documents are checked when you come into or leave the Schengen area... and we have no idea where he is," Haekkinen said.

However, the move does put pressure on any European Union member to hold Golovatov if he falls into the hands of authorities.

Last week Austrian authorities arrested Golovatov at Vienna airport, but released him 22 hours later, angering Lithuania.

Vienna insists Lithuania failed to meet a deadline to provide additional information needed to place Golovatov under detention pending extradition, while Vilnius counters that it did supply the necessary details.

Finland, which issued Golovatov's visa through its embassy in Moscow in 2009, said that at the time, SIS contained no information about the suspect.

Nor did Golovatov's movements across the border since then arouse suspicion because the spelling of his name in SIS differed from the spelling used in his passport and visa.

© 2011 AFP

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