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Lithuania may break diplomatic ties with Austria over ex-KGB agent release

RIA Novosti

15:53 18/07/2011 VILNIUS, July 18 (RIA Novosti) - Lithuanian Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs is discussing the possibility of breaking off diplomatic ties with Austria over the release of an ex-KGB agent.

Vienna police on Thursday freed Mikhail Golovatov 24 hours after he was detained on a European arrest warrant issued by Lithuania.

"With enough information, we suggest to discuss the prospects of diplomatic relations with Austria, first, by recalling [our] Lithuanian representative for consultations, and later, to discuss the possibility of freezing diplomatic relations [with Austria],... if all arguments are as what the press is saying, then even break off relations," the committee's chairman Emanuelis Zingeris said.

Lithuania will ask NATO and the European Union to assess the issue of the ex-KGB agent release in Austria, the committee said on Monday. The committee said Austria possibly violated one of the EU's fundamental principles, the "principle of solidarity."

Lithuania will summon home its ambassador to Austria in protest over the detention and release of a wanted ex-KGB colonel, presidential adviser Daiva Ulbinaite said on Monday.

Golovatov is believed to have been behind a Soviet crackdown on Lithuania's push for independence.

Lithuanian Deputy Prosecutor General Andrius Nevera said on Sunday the actions of the Austrian authorities were "a gross violation of EU and international law."

Austrian diplomats indicated the arrest warrant was too vague to merit Golovatov's continued detention.

A Lithuanian diplomat, requesting anonymity, told AFP that Lithuania suspected Russian involvement. "We have suspicions Russia put pressure on Austria," the Lithuanian foreign ministry official said.

Golovatov was a former commander of the KBG's Alpha Group. Lithuanian authorities accuse him of organizing the storming of the state television studio on January 13, 1991, in which 14 people were killed and dozens were injured.

He could face life imprisonment if convicted.

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