Curfew Cut in Soviet Georgia; Troops Begin to Pull Out
Authorities in the Soviet republic of Georgia on Sunday shortened the curfew in Tbilisi and began removing troops from the Georgian capital, which has been quiet but tense since last week’s clashes between security forces and demonstrators advocating independence left 19 people dead, Soviet news media reported.
Soviet television, noting a gradual return to calm after the worst nationalist confrontation since President Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power in 1985, said an 11 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew in the city was being shortened to midnight to 5 a.m. and might be removed entirely “in the nearest future.”
“The numerical strength of the military forces and the means used for implementing the curfew (soldiers and armored vehicles) is being considerably reduced,” it added.
Stores Have Reopened
The official Soviet news agency Tass reported that markets, food stores and some department stores have reopened in Tbilisi, and “it is only patrols that are met rarely that remind one of the past events.”
The Communist Party daily Pravda on Sunday quoted Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze as saying that the curfew could be lifted today.
In a speech delivered Friday to Georgia’s Central Committee and published in the Soviet news media Sunday, Shevardnadze also was quoted as saying that the republic’s political leaders ordered the army into the streets of Tbilisi to put down the independence protests despite objections by the military.
The foreign minister said that the army “marched and was stationed in certain places under orders given by the leadership of the republic” but that Col. Gen. I. N. Rodionov, the regional military commander, opposed the decision.
‘Not Army’s Responsibility’
“The commander said the function the troops were ordered to perform was not the responsibility of the army,” Pravda quoted Shevardnadze as saying.
A native Georgian and former chief of the republic’s Communist Party, Shevardnadze was sent to the region to help restore order and oversaw a purge of the top Georgian leadership in the wake of the violence.
In his speech, Shevardnadze hinted more officials would lose their jobs.
“The majority of our comrades are competent, upright, honest people who are up to the demands of perestroika (reform),” he said. “I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings. But on the other hand we have to get rid of those who can’t handle the job.”
While blaming the leaders of the republic for the decision to use security forces to disperse the demonstrators, Shevardnadze also faulted the leaders of the rally for putting their supporters in a dangerous situation.
‘Each Culprit Will Be Exposed’
“The nature and course of the events that led to the tragedy on April 9 have to be determined with judicial and scientific immutability through a careful, unbiased and all-around investigation,” he said. “I am convinced that each culprit will be exposed by name.”
Although state-run Radio Moscow said 20 people died and more than 150 were injured in the April 9 clashes, the official Georgian news agency Gruzinform said the death toll remained at 19, the same figure given by a Foreign Ministry spokesman last week.
In Tbilisi on Sunday, Shevardnadze placed flowers in front of the Government House in Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Square, where the demonstration occurred. Soviet television showed huge mounds of flowers at the site.
Residents in the capital also turned out for the final two funerals for victims of the violence, Gruzinform’s deputy director, Zurab Lomidze, said.
Rally in Lithuania
In the Baltic republic of Lithuania, about 30,000 people rallied Sunday for three hours in the city of Vilnius to mourn the victims, according to Valdas Anelauskas, a local journalist for the dissident paper Express-Khronika. No arrests or violence were reported.
At a rally in Moscow, human rights activist Andrei D. Sakharov led about 500 people in a minute of silence for Tbilisi’s dead.
The 1975 Nobel Peace laureate blamed the bloodshed on measures adopted last summer in Moscow requiring advance permission for demonstrations. Sakharov, who is running for election in the new Congress of People’s Deputies, said he will fight to revoke the decrees if he wins a seat in the chamber.
He also urged that the “full truth” about the incident be disclosed.
Dissidents and witnesses to the clashes said security forces beat protesters with clubs and shovels. Soviet officials said they are investigating the allegation.