Vilnius 1991: the last aggression of the Union

On March 11, 1990, the Soviet Parliament of the Lithuanian SSR was the first of all Soviet republics to proclaim the independence of its country. On January 8, the transfer of military units to Lithuania began. On the night of January 12-13, Soviet paratroopers with the support of tanks and the special “Alpha” group captured the Vilnius TV tower. During the breakthrough of the cordon by the military, 14 people from among the defenders and one soldier were killed. The whole Lithuania seemed to attend the funeral of the victims. The “rebellious” parliament was surrounded by thousands of Lithuanians. Soviet tanks approached him, but the order for the assault was never received.

My colleague and I were quite a bit late for the night massacre at the TV tower. All communication with Lithuania was interrupted and we had to fly to Minsk, and from there get to Vilnius by taxi. But the Lithuanian parliament was the first of several besieged parliaments that I happened to visit. I keep a gas mask as a keepsake – they were then given to foreign journalists in the building in case of a gas attack.