13 January 1991

“Twenty years ago this month an estimated 50,000 Lithuanians took to the streets to defend the reemergence of national independence. With the Lithuanian parliament’s formal restatement of independence on 11 March 1990 tension began to mount between Lithuanians and the Soviet regime. The situation escalated from the economic blockade to the Soviet attempt to use military force to crush Lithuanian democracy. In January 1991, the Soviet sent the KGB Alfa Special Forces and the Pskov Division to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Soviet forces seized key buildings such as the National Defense Department and the Press House. As it was rumored that the Parliament building would be next, Lithuanian civilians established a cordon around the key buildings. In the early hours of 13 January 1991 Soviet troops supported by tanks and armoured vehicles moved to the city’s television tower. At 0150 Soviet troops opened fire on the unarmed Lithuanians protecting the tower. The attack killed fourteen people and one Soviet soldier was killed by friendly fire from his own forces. Following the attack about 50,000 people gathered to protect the parliament and other key buildings. With widespread international condemnation of the violent act, the Soviet government backed down and began to withdraw military forces from Vilnius.

I would like to commemorate sacrifices made by Lithuanian patriots in defence of national independence and democracy and salute all our Lithuanian friends and colleagues who participated in the fateful events of January 1991.”


BrigGen Meelis Kiili


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