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Gorbachev unlikely to talk on Lithuania crackdown: spokesman

Mikhail Gorbachev is likely to decline a request from Lithuania to give evidence on his role in the Soviet crackdown on the Baltic state’s 1991 independence drive, his spokesman said Thursday.

Lithuanian justice authorities said Wednesday they would like to question the last Soviet leader as a witness in their investigation of the January 1991 crackdown which ended with the deaths of 14 civilians and hundreds wounded.

But Gorbachev’s spokesman Vladimir Polyakov said he was likely to decline. “He has dealt with this issue many times, both in his books and in interviews, so everything has been said,” he told the Echo of Moscow radio station.

Gorbachev has not received any official request from Lithuanian prosecutors, Polyakov added.

The Lithuanian chief prosecutor’s office said earlier this week it had sent Russia a formal request for legal assistance in its bid to question Gorbachev.

Soviet troops entered the capital Vilnius after Lithuania declared its secession in 1990 and stormed the city’s television tower as tens of thousands of people formed human shields against the troops.

After Lithuania finally won recognition from Moscow as an independent state in September 1991, the Baltic state has sought justice for the crackdown’s victims.

Six Soviet-era Lithuanian officials were convicted and jailed in the 1990s for their role. But Lithuania has been unable to try the period’s Soviet garrison commander, Vladimir Uskhopchik, who now lives in Belarus.

Lithuania has also pushed post-Soviet Russia to condemn the January 13, 1991 killings by Soviet troops at the Vilnius television tower, which fell from the control of pro-independence campaigners.

Earlier this year, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius pressed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to appoint an envoy for talks aimed at resolving what remains a thorny issue in ties between Vilnius and Moscow.