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Lithuania rejects Russia calls to hand over troops who deserted two decades ago

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Lithuania rejects Russia calls to hand over troops who deserted two decades ago

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Russia has asked Lithuania to help in its search for deserters from the former Soviet army going back more than 20 years.

Moscow wants to prosecute young Lithuanians who went ‘absent without leave’ following their country’s declaration of independence in 1990.

Many of the former Soviet conscripts like Gintaras Patackas are now in their forties:

“I served in Baku ( Azerbaijan) at the time. so one day my uncle arrived and said you need to go back to Lithuania. So we made a plan and got back…I just ran away.”

Lithuania’s prosecutor general’s office says the same request from Moscow has been made before.

Spokesperson Elena Martinoniene explains:

“About 10 years ago a similar request was received by the prosecutor’s office and it was considered at the time but the decision as now was taken to refuse to grant legal assistance.”

An estimated 1500 young people refused service in the Soviet Army after March 1990.

Russia’s request is being seen as tit-for-tat after the recent arrest of three of its former soldiers accused by Lithuania of taking part the Soviet Union’s initial crackdown.