UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Latvia challenges Austria on ex-KGB agent release

RIA Novosti

14:40 19/07/2011 VILNIUS, July 19 (RIA Novosti) - Latvia on Tuesday handed the Austrian ambassador in Riga a note demanding an explanation about the release of a wanted ex-KGB colonel, Latvian President Andris Berzins said.

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

"I believe Latvia understands the situation better than anybody else. I was in a similar situation in January 1991," Berzins said during his current official visit to Lithuania.

"I support your country's position. Today, the Latvian foreign minister summoned the Austrian ambassador and handed him a note."

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

Lithuanian Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs said on Monday it would discuss the possibility of breaking off diplomatic ties with Austria over Golovatov's release.

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.

The international affairs committee of the Lithuanian parliament will request its allies in NATO and the European Union to assess Austria's actions. The committee said Austria possibly violated one of the EU's fundamental principles, the "principle of solidarity."

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.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list