Lithuania’s leaders call for not forgetting Medininkai massacre’s significance

Commemoration of the Medininkai Massacre
DELFI / Orestas Gurevičius

The memory of seven Lithuanian police and customs officers, killed by Soviet OMON soldiers, was on Tuesday honored by Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, Interior Minister Eimutis Misiūnas, Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania’s first post-independence leader, Seimas Vice Speaker Arvydas Nekrošius, Tomas Šernas, the sole survivor of the Medininkai massacre, the victims’ families, representatives of the Customs and State Border Guard Service.

“The officers who sacrificed their lives showed that institutions of the restored states were with the people, with the nation, with our young state. It is very important today for the younger generation to remember that. (…) The most important thing is that people who were born after this tragedy, were born in a free and independent Lithuania, should remember and never forget that,” Skvernelis said.

He acknowledged that the results of the two-decade investigation in to this massacre “cannot be the one that satisfies everyone.”

Meanwhile, Landsbergis criticized Lithuania’s law enforcement institutions in his speech as acting “not really appropriately”. He criticized “the casual organization and minimal investigation efforts, the disappearance of evidence, event testimonies, and the lack of simple searches”, as well as the fact that officers have failed to question some key witnesses.

The former chairman of Lithuania’s Supreme Council-Reconstituent Seimas, also wondered whether the fact that some executors of the Medininkai massacre have evaded justice might be repeated in the January 13 case.

Speaking about the recent decision by Russia’s Investigative Committee to launch criminal cases against Lithuanian judges and prosecutors working on the January 13 case, Landsbergis suggested considering responding in a similar way and launching criminal cases in Lithuania against Russian officials for perverting the course of justice.

“We need to make our minds as to whether we identify and leave them fester in their slough or make a symmetrical response which perhaps will be more audible in the world,” Landsbergis said.

The sole survivor of the Medininkai massacre, Sernas reminisced that his colleagues who fell victim to this brutal attack “were peaceful people who loved their families and had many plans in their lives”.

“So the best monument for them would be if we all were a bit different and pursued that peace. Not only all officials have to be responsible but we all who live in Lithuania have to be responsible. The way we communicate with foreigners, the way we communicate on foreign vacations, at work, with each other,” he said.

In the early hours of July 31, 1991, soviet OMON soldiers killed seven Lithuanian officers at Medininkai border checkpoint. The victims included Mindaugas Balavakas and Algimantas Juozakas (officers of the rapid response team ARAS), Juozas Janonis and Algirdas Kazlauskas (traffic police officers), Antanas Musteikis and Stanislovas Orlavicius (customs officers). Customs officer Ricardas Rabavicius suffered a head injury and died in hospital on Aug. 2. The only survivor, customs officer Tomas Sernas, suffered severe brain damage and became disabled.

Former OMON officer Konstantin Mikhailov has been sentenced to life in prison for this crime, while three other former OMON officers – Cheslav Mlynik, Andrey Laktyonov and Alexander Ryzhov – have been convicted in absentia due to Russia’s refusal to extradite them.

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