Austria, Lithuania meet over Soviet suspect release

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Austrian and Lithuanian officials met Thursday in Vienna in a bid to smooth diplomatic tensions over the recent release of a Russian man wanted by Vilnius for alleged war crimes.

The talks, held behind closed doors with experts from the Lithuanian justice ministry, prosecutors' office and the embassy, were "constructive," Austria's justice ministry said in a brief statement.

Relations between Vienna and Vilnius have been strained since Austria last month arrested and then released Mikhail Golovatov, a Russian man wanted by Lithuania for a deadly assault by Soviet forces on January 13, 1991.

Golovatov led the elite unit that carried out the Vilnius attack, which killed 14 and injured hundreds more.

Austria insists it did not receive enough information from Lithuania to keep Golovatov in custody, while Vilnius says Vienna caved in to Russian pressure.

"We do believe the European solidarity was breached there," Lithuania's deputy foreign minister Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene told Austrian radio Oe1 Thursday.

"Questions still remain unanswered," she said.

Observers from the Council of Europe and the European Commission, which waded into the dispute last month to say that Vienna had acted legally in releasing Golovatov while denouncing the move politically, were also present at Thursday's meeting.

The experts went over the circumstances of Golovatov's release as well as ways to improve legal cooperation between EU states.

A further meeting was also agreed, the justice ministry said, without specifying the date or location.

© 2011 AFP

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