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The Significance of the Ultimatum in International Law: The Responsibility of the Head of the USSR for the Events of January 1991 in Lithuania


This article analyzed the significance of the ultimatum as a means of declaring aggression against another state in international law, and what influence it has in evaluating the actions of the head of USSR in the context of the events of January 13th 1991. The first part of the article analyzed the classical concept of ultimatum and its meaning in international law. Later, alternative forms of expression of ultimatum, which were formed in the 20th century, and practiced during international conflicts, and their assessment in international law, were analyzed. Finally, after refining the existing legal significance of the ultimatum, we analyzed the significance of the ultimatum against Lithuania issued by the head of the USSR on 10 January 1990, We also examined his further actions on 11–13 January 1991 in evaluating assumptions of his personal responsibility as head of USSR of the armed forces regarding the tragic events of January 13th 1991. As a result of the investigation, it was concluded that the ultimatum of the head of the USSR issued on January 10th, 1991, within the meaning of international law, had a direct connection in the assessment of the issue of criminal liability in relation to international crimes committed by the armed forces of the USSR. The aggressive foreign policy pursued by the head of the USSR in expressing it within a tacit ultimatum based on the try and see method, and subsequently international crimes against the Lithuanian state committed by military units, are considered the actual basis for the emergence of personal criminal liability of the head of the USSR for the events of January 13th, 1991 under international law.