VILNIUS -- The Lithuanian government has awarded former Belarusian leader Stanislau Shushkevich a high state honor for his support of Lithuanian statehood following the Soviet crackdown in 1991, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
On July 6, Lithuania's national day, President Dalya Gribauskaite awarded several Lithuanians and foreigners with medals to commemorate their assistance to the country.
Shushkevich, 75, received the Order of the Cross of Vytis, which is given to those who have defended Lithuania.
Shushkevich recalled at the award ceremony that he was in Vilnius in January 1991 when Soviet troops attacked protesters, killing at least 14 civilians and injuring some 600.
Lithuania had declared its independence from the Soviet Union in March 1990.
Shushkevich said the state award is an incentive to work toward making Belarus as free as Lithuania currently is.
Shushkevich served as chairman of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet from 1991-94 before the post of president had been created. He played key roles in dissolving the Soviet Union and creating the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Shushkevich currently works as a lecturer at several foreign universities.