Lithuania has asked the Russian ambassador to explain Moscow’s suspected involvement in the release of a wanted ex-KGB officer by Austrian authorities.
Former KGB colonel Mikhail Golovatov was released less than 24 hours after his arrest at a Vienna airport and allowed to travel to Moscow.
Golovatov is believed to have organized the storming of the state television studio in Vilnius on January 13, 1991, in which 14 people were killed and dozens were injured. The violence came as Soviet rule began to unravel in the three Baltic republics.
“We demand an explanation of Russia’s possible influence over Austrian authorities in connection with the suspect’s release,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said.
“A note was handed over to the Russian ambassador in Lithuania. It expresses concern over dishonest and offensive statements posted on the official website of the Russian Foreign Ministry,” the Delfi news portal said on Thursday.
The statement came a response to an interview by the Russian ambassador to Vienna, Sergei Nechayev, in which the Russian diplomat denied putting political pressure on the Austrian authorities. The interview was posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official website.
He also praised the Austrian justice system for its “high professionalism and impartiality.” He said the decision to release Golovatov had “prevented Austria from being dragged into the dirty political intrigues…of a third country.”
Austria’s Justice Ministry has argued that the charges against the suspect were not precise enough, and that Vilnius had not supplied additional information in time.