A Soviet official Wednesday warned seven visiting Americans of Latvian descent that their physical safety was in danger for actively supporting the independence of the Latvian Republic. Meanwhile, senior U.S. and Kremlin officials clashed over the issue at a conference here involving hundreds of Russians, Latvians and Americans.
The Soviet official warned the seven Latvian-American activists to "stop spreading tendentious literature," according to John Wallach, one of the organizers of the four-day conference.
Wallach, foreign editor of Hearst Newspapers and a director of the Chautauqua Institute of Jamestown, N.Y., said a Soviet security official asked him to pass the warning on to the Latvian-Americans, who flew here Sunday with more than 250 other Americans to participate in the conference.
Ojars Kalnis, one of the activists, said some members of the group had already been harassed by the KGB security police after visiting Latvian friends and relatives here this week.
Kalnis denied that they had distributed literature supporting independence for Latvia, which was absorbed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. He said they had passed out pens to locals bearing the flag of an independent Latvia.
Three of the Latvian-Americans had their hotel rooms searched and found notes and other articles missing, according to Kalnis, public relations director of the American Latvian Assn., based in Rockville, Md.
Mark Palmer, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state and a conference participant, issued a protest over the harassment to local officials here and advised the seven to cut short their visit to the Soviet Union.