Archive for March, 2019

SOVIET WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS SENTENCED IN LITHUANIA

March 28, 2019

Washington Times on March 27, 2019, reported that a Lithuanian court had found the last Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov in absentia guilty of war crimes. Excerpts below:

A Lithuanian court on March 27, 2019,found the Soviet Union’s last defense minister guilty of war crimes for his role in a violent crackdown on the Baltic country’s independence move 28 years ago.

The Vilnius Regional Court sentenced 94-year-old Dmitry Yazov in absentia to 10 years in prison.

He and 66 other Soviet-era officials were on trial for the violence that left 14 people dead and hundreds injured when Soviet troops stormed a television tower and an adjacent building in Vilnius on Jan. 13, 1991.

The trial began in 2016. Only two defendants were present in court with most of the others being in Russia, which has refused to hand them over. Those present had pleaded not guilty.

The verdict comes at a time of growing military activity in the Baltic Sea region…

Lithuania and the two other Baltic countries fear that after Russia’s military involvement in Georgia and Ukraine, other former Soviet republics could be next.

The assault on the television facilities was the deadliest Soviet action to crush secessionist movements in the Baltics.

RFE/RL provided further information on the sentences. Excerpts below:

In a March 27, 2019, ruling, the Vilnius Regional Court sentenced former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov in absentia to 10 years in prison. Former KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison.

Yazov and Golovatov were the most prominent of 67 defendants in the trial over the momentous events that unfolded in Vilnius in January 1991, when the Soviet Union’s government tried to halt the country’s collapse by cracking down on the first republic to declare independence.

The verdicts followed three years of proceedings focusing on the deaths of 14 people killed by the Soviet Army in the Lithuanian capital that month.

Lithuanian prosecutors say all but one of the victims died during the storming of the state television headquarters and TV tower by Soviet paratroopers on January 13, 1991. More than 700 other people were wounded.

Judge Ainora Maceviciene sentenced the other 64 defendants — all citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine — to prison terms ranging from four to 12 years. All but two were sentenced in absentia.

Two former Soviet military officers who were present at the trial, Russian citizens Gennady Ivanov and Yury Mel, were present at the trial, were sentenced to four and seven years in prison respectively.

Yazov, now 94 years old, was the last marshal of the Soviet Union and Soviet defense minister in 1987-1991. He is one of two remaining members of a group of plotters who tried to take over the disintegrating Soviet Union in 1991 by sidelining its leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in an attempted coup that collapsed after three days in August 2, 1991.

Golovatov, 69, a retired colonel, was the commander of the KGB military unit known as Alpha Group or Spetsnaz in 1991-92. The group under his command took part in the 1991 crackdown in Vilnius.

In March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the 15 Soviet republics to declare independence.

Comment: The trial against the Soviet suspects of war crimes in Lithuania has been conducted in a typical Western media shadow. Mainstream media seems intent on having readers forget about crimes of communism that caused the death of an estimated 200 million people since the Bolshevik coup d’etat in Russia in 1917. Other former Soviet occupied countries should follow Lithuania in bringing Soviet suspects of war crimes to justice.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP AND CHANCELLOR MERKEL SPEAK ON UKRAINE

March 24, 2019

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty on March 23, 2019, reported that President Trump and Chancellor Merkel have spoken via telephone on Ukraine and NATO during Trump’s weekend stay at Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Excerpts below:

A senior [American] administration official said the conversation covered funding for the NATO alliance.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the conversation also covered issues related to Ukraine without being specific.

Ukrainian government forces have been fighting against Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk since April 2014 in a conflict that has killed some 13,000 people — a quarter of them civilians.

Moscow has also seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region…

Comment: Much of the focus of the U.S. administration has since 2017 been on East Asia and the Middle East. The contact between Trump and Merkel is a sign that Ukraine will get more attention during 2019. Merkel’s peace initiatives have not been successful. The conflict in eastern Ukraine is continuing. Ukraine needs stronger support from both the United States and EU. Ukrainians must feel secure that the West is really supportive of their efforts to join the family of democratic nations and escape from the grip of Russia.

IS RUSSIA ON ITS KNEES?

March 23, 2019

Washington Times on March 22, 2019 published an AP interview with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on his country’s road towards taking its place among Western European democracies. Excerpts below:

…Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin insisted that Ukraine has Russia on its knees, and that his country is making good progress toward taking its place among Western European democracies.

“Ukrainian society five years after Maidan is ripe enough … to fight for an independent democratic and European country, and for me part of this future is of course our membership in the European Union, in NATO,” he said.

“Ukraine is already part of the trans-Atlantic community. It should formally become part of this trans-Atlantic community.”

Klimkin [said] the standoff [with Russia] is hurting Moscow more than Kiev.

“Look at the economic development in Russia: no growth. Look at their societal development. Look at Russian demography. Russia is going nowhere under current conditions. And I believe that quite soon the Russian leadership will have simply to face this fact.”

“We have to do better with reforms here in the country. We have to do better with transforming our justice system. We have to do better with tackling corruption,” he said. “But if you … compare current Ukraine with Ukraine five years ago, right after Maidan, it’s completely a different country.”

“I’m not saying [that EU and NATO membership] will come tomorrow or after tomorrow. We have to be honest. It’s not a short-term exercise, but it will come,” he said.

“Ukrainians will not tolerate any kind of back off or veering off from this fundamental force.”

Comment: On March 31 Ukrainians will elect a president. Most likely there will be a second round in April with good chances for President Petro Poroshenko to be re-elected.

The war in the east with Russia is taking its toll and it is important that the United States supplies Ukraine with more defensive weapons. The European Union should step up negotiations with Ukraine for EU membership.

Russia is one of the three empires presently challenging the West. The loss of much of the influence in Ukraine has been a serious setback for Russia. With a new Ukrainian administration from April 2019 a more forward policy for the West on Ukraine is necessary when it comes to integrating Ukraine in the family of Western democracies.