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Vassili Makarovich Kononov[1] or Vasiliy Makarovich Kononov (Russian: Василий Макарович Кононов, Latvian language: Vasilijs Kononovs

1 January 1923 – 31 March 2011) was a Soviet partisan during World War II and a convicted war criminal and mass murderer. He is the only former Soviet partisan convicted of crimes against humanity[2] for his role in the Mazie Bati killings, where posing as German Wehrmacht officers, Kononov led a unit into a Latvian village and killed nine people, including three women, one in the late stages of pregnancy who was burned alive.

Mazie Bati[]

On 29 February 1944, Latvian villagers from Mazie Bati (Malye Baty) allowed 12 men from the Soviet reconnaissance-sabotage group to stay in their barns. The next day, at six in the morning, the Germans, who Kononov suspected the villagers of aiding, burned and machine-gunned the barns. All 12 partisans, including the leader Major Chugunov, his wife Antonina and their 7-month-old son, were killed.[3][4]

On 27 May 1944, a detachment of the Soviet First Latvian Partisan Battalion led by Kononov staged a "counter operation" against the village of Mazie Bati. In this operation, nine villagers were accused of being the "German auxiliaries" (the Latvian armed resistance against the Soviet occupation of Latvia sided with the German invaders in 1941) responsible for the prior incident. Kononov's men were sent to capture the villagers pursuant to an ad-hoc Military Tribunal verdict.[5][6] Kononov and his men conducted the operation wearing German Wehrmacht uniforms so as not to arouse the suspicion of the villagers. nine villagers were killed, including three women, one in the late stages of pregnancy who was burned alive. Buildings were burned as well.[7][8]

War crime prosecution[]

Original conviction and dismissal[]

In July 1998, original proceedings against Kononov were commenced by the Latvian Principal Public Prosecutor's Office, whereby in August 1998 he was formally charged and ultimately indicted in December 1998.[8] Kononov pleaded not guilty at the trial which began in January 1999. Ample evidence of guilt was found by the court where Kononov was in violation of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal (“IMT”) Nuremberg, the Hague Convention (IV) 1907 and the Geneva Convention (IV) 1949.[8] He was found guilty and sentenced to six years imprisonment.[8]

However, on 25 April 2000, the Criminal Affairs Division in Latvia overturned his conviction on the grounds that it was not clearly established whether Kononov was operating on occupied territory and whether he and his men could be considered combatants, as well as whether the villagers could be considered prisoners of war based on their armament by the Germans.[8] On 27 June 2000, the Supreme Court of Latvia dismissed the prosecutor's appeal, ultimately setting Kononov free.[8]

Second investigation and conviction[]

On 17 May 2001, Kononov was once again charged by the prosecutor's office following a fresh investigation. The deaths of six men the was deemed justifiable, but found the deaths of the three women deemed an act of banditry, in violation of the law, but ultimately barred by statute of limitations.[8] The prosecution appealed and on 30 April 2004, the decision of the lower court was overturned and Kononov was found guilty of war crimes, and subsequently jailed.[8] On 28 September 2004, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of the court in dismissing Kononov's appeal.[8]

Appeal to ECHR[]

On 19 June 2008,[9] Kononov's lawyer Mikhail Ioffe, announced that the European Court of Human Rights had overturned the Latvian court ruling. He also said that Kononov was seeking €5,187,000 in compensation for the two and a half years his client spent in a Latvian prison.[10][11]

A press release published by the ECHR on 24 July 2008 revealed the Court's decision, establishing, by four votes to three, that the Kononov's case presented a violation of Article 7 (no retrospective punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Kononov was awarded €30,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.[12]

On 14 October 2008, the government of Latvia decided to appeal the 24 July judgment.[13] On 9 February 2009, the case Kononov v. Latvia was referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.[14] In May 2009, Lithuania has joined Latvia using its right to participate in the case.[15]

Final ruling[]

In May 2010, the Grand Chamber ruled, by 14 votes to 3, that the case presented no violation of Article 7 ECHR.[16] Under the Hague Regulations of 1907, the court determined Kononov could be punished for failing to meet the regulation criteria, specifically, wearing German Wehrmacht uniforms while carrying out the crimes. The court determined the execution of the villagers was in violation of established international law at the time, as Kononov was only entitled to arrest them, and his conviction was not barred by statute of limitations.[8]

Support from Russia[]

At various times throughout the period of his prosecution for alleged war crimes, Kononov has received official support from the Government of Russia. In April 2000, immediately before judgement was to be handed down in his appeal with the Supreme Court of Latvia, he was offered citizenship of the Russian Federation by President Vladimir Putin. Kononov accepted the offer, which entailed giving up his previously-held Latvian citizenship.[17] On the event of his 80th birthday in 2003, Kononov received personal greetings from the Russian President, delivered at a ceremony held in the Russian Embassy in Riga.[18] In the hearings of his case at the ECHR, Russia acted as a third party,[19] and on occasion publicly urged the Court to prioritise Kononov's case.[20]

Sergey Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council of Russia, expressed hopes that President Dmitry Medvedev's Historical Truth Commission would also become involved in the Kononov case.[21]

Impact on Nuremberg legacy[]

Kononov's defence team, along with Russia's representative to the ECHR, Deputy Justice Minister Georgi Matyushkin, warned the ruling poses grave dangers to the legal legacy of the Nuremberg tribunals from World War II.[22] Matyushkin stated "there are signs of attempts to revise the results of the Nuremberg processes."[23] William Schabas, Latvia's counsel at the ECtHR trial, on the contrary, considers that the dissenting minority held Nuremberg judgment to be contrary to the Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[24]


Kononov's former superior officer, later academician and Soviet functionary, Vilis Samsons, has questioned some of the First Latvian Partisan Battalion's wartime reports upon which the accusations against Kononov are based, alleging the description of the Mazie Bati operation was rife with factual errors and imprecisions.[25]


Kononov died in Latvia on 31 March 2011 at the age of 88. In a telegram to Kononov's family, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated:

“Vasily Kononov selflessly fought the Nazi invaders throughout the years of the Great Patriotic War.

He remained loyal to the common bonds forged in battle and defended the truth about the events of those years throughout his entire life.”



In recognition of his wartime service, the Soviet Union awarded Kononov various honours, including:

See also[]


  1. ECtHR usage.
  2. "Amid V-Day Festivities, Soviet Partisan Braces For War Crimes Verdict", Radio Free Europe. Claire Bigg. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
  3. "Interview with Kononov's lawyer, Mikhail Ioffe, and others".  (Russian)
  4. "Европейский суд принял жалобу латвийского партизана Василия Кононова" (in Russian). 21 December 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  5. Swain, Geoffrey (2004). Between Stalin and Hitler: Race War and Class War on the Dvina, 1940-46. London & New York: RoutledgeCruzon. pp. 140, 247–8. ISBN 0-415-33193-5. OCLC 54826052. 
  6. Перов, Олег (11 January 2008). "Последний бой ветерана Кононова" (in Russian). Вечерняя Москва. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  7. "ECHR favors Latvia in final Kononov ruling", Baltic Times. Oskars Magone. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 8.9 "CASE OF KONONOV v. LATVIA", European Court of Human Rights. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
  9. Звегинцев, Валентин (27 June 2008). "Латвия расстанется с миллионами евро: И отдаст их российскому пенсионеру" (in Russian). Moskovskij Komsomolets. Retrieved 24 July 2008. 
  10. "Европейский суд по правам человека удовлетворил иск ветерана войны к Латвии" (in Russian). Interfax. 26 June 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  11. Biķernieks, Aivis (26 June 2008). "Kononova advokāts: bijušais partizāns Eiropas Cilvēktiesību tiesā uzvarējis Latviju" (in Latvian). Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze. Retrieved 24 July 2008. 
  12. "Chamber Judgment: Kononov v. Latvia". European Court of Human Rights. 24 July 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  13. "Pārsūdzēs ECT spriedumu Kononova lietā" (in Latvian). Diena. Riga. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2008. 
  14. "Cases Accepted for Referral to the Grand Chamber". European Court of Human Rights. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  15. "Литва получила статус "третьей стороны" по делу Кононова" (in Russian). 6 May 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  16. "Grand Chamber judgment in case Kononov v. Latvia". European Court of Human Rights. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  17. "Партизан Кононов отказался от гражданства Латвии" (in Russian). Lenta.Ru. 25 May 2000. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  18. "Василия Кононова ждут в российском посольстве на торжественную церемонию" (in Russian). Первый канал. 3 January 2003. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  19. "Russian MFA Information and Press Department Commentary on ECHR Ruling in Favor of Vasiliy Kononov in WWII Veteran's Case vs. Latvia". Minstry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  20. "European court urged to give Soviet veteran priority". Russia Today. 21 March 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  21. "Кремлевская комиссия займется делом Кононова" (in Russian). 20 May 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2009. 
  22. "Strasbourg sides with Nazis", Voice of Russia. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
  23. "Strasbourg court verdict to Soviet WWII veteran arouses regret in Russia", ITAR-TASS. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
  24. Kononov War Crimes Judgment Issued by European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber
  25. V. Samsons to H. Strods 20 July 2005, in: Strods, Heinrihs (2007) (in Latvian). PSRS kaujinieki Latvijā (1941–1945). 2. Riga: LU žurnāla "Latvijas Vēsture" fonds. p. 355. ISBN 9984-643-80-8. OCLC 167627319. 
  26. "Condolences to family of Great Patriotic War veteran Vasily Kononov". Presidential Press and Information Office. 1 April 2011.,4:25. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 


Press releases[]

Press coverage[]

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