Former Soviet soldier sentensed to five years by Latvian court for role in failed coup

Vyacheslav Sorokin, a Russian citizen, did not appear at Riga Regional Court because Russia has refused to extradite him to stand trial for his part in the effort to overthrow the fledgling independent Latvian government.

Prosecutors said Sorokin took part in a raid on the Interior Ministry building that left five people, including two policemen, dead. They said Sorokin was part of a special forces unit that beat police and civilians trying to protect buildings of strategic importance in the capital, fired shots at cars and destroyed and looted buildings, the AP reports.

The attack, and another in neighboring Lithuania a week earlier that left 14 dead, was a last show of force in the Baltics for the crumbling Soviet empire. The attacks, far from quashing hopes of independence, only emboldened hundreds of thousands in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to demand independence, which they gained later that year.

Twelve members of Sorokin's unit have previously been convicted of taking part in the coup attempt, but none served any jail time. Nine have received suspended sentences and three have been let off without punishment.

The verdict can be appealed to Latvia's Supreme Court.