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Lithuania jails Soviet defense minister for 1991 crackdown

AP  |  Vilnius (Lithuania) 

A on Wednesday found the Soviet Union's guilty of war crimes for his role in a violent crackdown on the Baltic country's independence move 28 years ago.

The Regional Court sentenced 94-year-old 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 on Jan. 13, 1991.

The defendants were citizens of Russia, Belarus, and

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 have pleaded not guilty.

had also rejected the court's request to question former Soviet leader

The verdict comes at a time of growing military activity in the region, with several reports of alleged airspace violations by Russian military aircraft and an increased presence of Russian military vessels.

and the two other Baltic fear that after Russia's military involvement in and Ukraine, other former Soviet could be next.

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

All three won independence later in 1991 as the collapsed. They became members of NATO and the in 2004.

There was no immediate reaction from

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 27 2019. 17:30 IST