Former Soviet fighter appeals conviction for war crimes in Latvia

Other News Materials 28 February 2008 15:38 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Former Soviet guerilla fighter and war criminal Vasilijs Kononovs has demanded more than 5 million euros (7.5 million dollars) in compensation from Latvia, media reports said Thursday.

The Baltic nation convicted Kononovs in 2004 for crimes he had committed in 1944, when a group of Soviet guerrilla fighters burned down homes in the Latvian village of Mazie Bati, killing nine people.

According to Latvian authorities, the victims were peaceful citizens but Kononovs said he killed Nazi collaborators.

The decorated war veteran, accused Latvia of inhumane treatment in an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2004, alleging human rights violations.

Now a Russian citizen, he alleges Latvia's high court tried him for actions he committed at a time when those actions did not bear the penalty according to international or national laws.

It is not known when the court would deliver a decision but Kononovs' attorney told the Russian-language newspaper Chas on Thursday, he expected a decision by April.

Russian media and politicians kept Kononovs' case in the public eye. Russia joined in as the third party to the case. He received an honour in 2003 at the Russian embassy in Riga for his service to the Russian nation in foreign lands.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent Kononovs Christmas greetings while Kononovs was in prison.

Kononovs was one of the first three people tried in an independent Latvia for crimes related to the Soviet period and World War II. His trial heightened tensions between Latvia and Russia.