Lithuania president blasts Austria over warcrimes suspect

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Lithuania's president returned to the row with Austria over the release of a Russian warcrimes suspect Sunday, as she marked the anniversary of another notorious Soviet-era massacre.

"The tragedy of Medininkai, like that of January 13, 1991, is as painful a wound for us as for the whole of free Europe," Dalia Grybauskaite said in a speech at the Medininkai border post, where the attack happened.

"The recent events in Austria have proved it, when a person suspected of such crimes has been able to avoid being handed over to Lithuanian justice."

Grybauskaite was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of an attack by an elite Soviet unit at the Medininkai border post, in which they killed seven Lithuanian border guards.

The attack was part of failed Kremlin efforts to bring the Baltic state to heel after its 1990 secession from the Soviet Union.

On July 14, Austrian officials detained Russian citizen Mikhail Golovatov at Vienna airport because he was wanted by Lithuania in connection with a separate attack, in Vilnius, in January 1991.

Golovatov is suspected of having led the Soviet troops who killed at least 14 civilians and wounded hundreds more in that attack.

But Austria released him less than 24 hours after his arrest, saying Lithuania had failed to provide the extra information required to keep him detained pending extradition.

Lithuania accused Austria of having caved in to Russian pressure -- a claim supported by at least one Austrian opposition deputy.

Peter Pilz of the opposition Greens said the Russian ambassador had threatened economic and political sanctions.

The Czech Republic, another country that was formerly under Soviet control, also denounced Austria over the affair.

"Those responsible for the violent death of individuals in the era of dictatorship in central and eastern Europe must face justice," the Czech foreign ministry said in a statement.

© 2011 AFP

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