News / Europe

Lithuania Commemorates 20th Anniversary Of Soviet Crackdown

Lithuanians march during a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the
Lithuanians march during a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the "Battle for the Freedom of Nations" carrying a 200m long sash in the Lithuanian flag colors from the Cathedral Square to the Independence Square in Vilnius, Lithuania, 13 Jan 2011

Multimedia

Audio

Lithuania is commemorating the 20th anniversary of a deadly clash with Soviet troops that preceded its independence in 1991. The Baltic nation's president, Dalia Grybauskaite, has urged Lithuanians never to forget the freedom battle, which killed 14 people and injured hundreds, adding that those responsible for the crackdown should be brought to justice.

In the winter of 1991, Soviet forces stormed the capital Vilnius to stop Lithuanians' drive for independence from the Soviet Union, which swallowed up the small Baltic republic on the eve of World War II.

On January 13,  Soviet troops also attacked the Vilnius TV tower, killing more than a dozen unarmed civilians who had been demonstrating for freedom and independence.

Many more were injured in the clash.

Yet, despite the crackdown, Lithuania eventually achieved independence in August 1991.
Now, 20 years later, special ceremonies were held to remember those who died in the battle for freedom.

On Thursday, Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite was among those commemorating the victims at the cemetery where they were buried.

A special military unit, that also included young men born around the time of independence, stood guard nearby.

Elsewhere, participants carried a 200-meter long flag from the main cathedral in Vilnius to the parliamentary building, where lawmakers held a special session.

Speaking in parliament, President Grybauskaite urged Lithuanians and officials of European governments attending the ceremonies never to forget her nation's battle for freedom.

Ms. Grybauskaite says "Freedom was not given as a gift" as Lithuanians "had to fight for it." However she says Lithuania was encouraged by support from the international community in its quest for freedom and independence. Eventually, the president adds, her country "passed the test of history and courage with blazing bonfires and resounding songs of hope..." Yet she warns that these memories of two decades ago should commit everyone to build a Lithuania that people fought for on January 13. A country that is "free, progressive and fair to every citizen."

She also said she still believes that everyone responsible for the crackdown should  
be brought to justice as in her words "there is no limitation for crimes against humanity
and freedom of a nation."

In separate remarks, Lithuania's Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said Russia should pay
compensation to the families of the 14 people killed by the Soviet army.

Moscow has rejected the claims. In a statement, the Russian embassy said that while it shared Lithuania's grief about the fallen, "Russia sees no reason why it should be held responsible for the events of 1991."

Not everyone invited attended Lithuania's commemorations. Top officials from Poland declined invitations to ceremonies Thursday, amid a row between the two countries over Lithuania's treatment of its Polish minority, which demands more linguistic and other rights.

Closer to home the government also faces economic woes. Analysts say that while
Lithuania transformed its economy after regaining independence, it remains one of the poorest nations within  the European Union.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs