23/7 Tass 207a
MOSCOW, July 23 (Itar-Tass) — Moscow is astonished to learn that Lithuania has made public details of a conversation between Russian ambassador to Vilnius and Lithuania’s vice minister of foreign affairs Evaldas Ignatavicius related to the situation around the release in Vienna of former KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Friday.
“First of all, I would like to note that in line with the current diplomatic practices details of such meetings are not to be disclosed, all the more distorted,” Lukashevich said in comment of pronouncements of Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis. “Motives underlying violations of such practices are quite clear.”
“As concerns comments of the words and actions of heads of Russian diplomatic missions, such things are solely within the competences of Russian leaders and the ministry of foreign affairs,” the Russian diplomat stressed. “Our ambassador to Vienna has recounted the situation quite adequately.”
On Tuesday, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis was reported as saying that “Russian diplomats are seeking to set a negative background” around Golovatov’s arrest and release in Austria.
“As a law-ruled independent state Austria take its own decisions, and European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding reiterated that Austria has acted legally correct in this case,” the Russian embassy said in a statement. Unlike the Lithianian side, “Russia put no political pressure on official Vienna.”
Mikhail Golovatov, the former commander of the Alpha special military squad, had been wanted by Lithuania for his involvement in an attack on the Vilnius TV centre in January 1991. He was detained in Vienna but later was let to return to the homeland. Following these developments, Lithuania recalled its ambassador in Vienna for consultations and handed over a note of protest.
Lithuania’s law enforces say that Golovatov led an operation to crush pro-opposition journalists January 13, 1991 in a Vilnius TV tower, during which 14 people died. Lithuania issued an EU detention order, but Austria, where the man arrived, refused to arrest him over questions to the Lithuanian arrest warrant. To avoid further problems, Golovatov opted to return home.
Russian ambassador to Austria Sergei Nechayev said then that the Austrian authorities “have demonstrated high professionalism and lack of bias and have not let their country be involved in filthy political intrigues of dishonest politician from a third country seeking to earn political capital though settling old scores with their own history.”
When asked whether Russia has put pressure on Vienna, Nechanyev said, “Russia never uses such methods in principle, the more so if it concerns a friendly country.”