Lithuania Sidesteps Warning, Asks Talks : Willing to Discuss Wide Range of Issues, Vilnius Tells Kremlin
Lithuanian parliamentary leaders today sidestepped the Kremlin’s warning to rescind their declaration of independence and renewed an invitation to Moscow to start talks on the republic’s future.
A statement by the presidium of the Baltic republic’s Parliament dodged weekend statements by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev that Lithuania’s self-proclaimed independence could have “serious consequences” for the entire country.
It said the people of the republic had “clearly demonstrated the desire of the Baltic people for a restoration of Baltic independence in a peaceful and democratic manner.”
“Today, with overt Soviet military pressure increasing on Lithuania . . . the people of Lithuania and their government again request that the government of the U.S.S.R. agree to talks with Lithuanian representatives on the wide range of issues facing the Soviet and Lithuanian peoples.”
The statement was sent to Gorbachev as the Lithuanian Parliament was discussing his warning and completing the formation of a government.
Lithuanian officials said the Parliament could issue its own response to Gorbachev later today or Tuesday.
The presidium statement, signed by President Vytautas Landsbergis, reiterated that the March 11 independence declaration was constitutionally legal.
It also invited Soviet representatives to come to the republic “to present the position of the Soviet government in a more comprehensive manner.”
Lithuanian leaders, it said, are willing “to enter into talks and discussions at any level with the U.S.S.R. government or its representatives at any time to discuss Lithuania’s legal status.”
Moscow has increased its military presence in the republic.
Columns of tanks and armored personnel carriers have passed through the streets of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in the last two weeks and Soviet troops have occupied several key Communist Party and government buildings.
Landsbergis, in an interview with Radio Moscow’s Interfax news service, ruled out rescinding the independence declaration, saying Moscow was asking Lithuania “to make a move that is impossible both judicially and morally.”
Residents of the republic began sending letters and telegrams to Gorbachev expressing support for their republic’s independence.
Vilnius was reported to be mostly quiet today. About 1,000 pro-independence demonstrators rallied outside the Lithuanian prosecutor’s office against the occupation of the building Friday night by Soviet soldiers, sources said.
Both a prosecutor appointed by Lithuania’s breakaway government and one sent from Moscow were working in the building today, and employees reported no direct conflicts.
Czechoslovakia’s official CTK news agency said today that Landsbergis accepted President Vaclav Havel’s offer to host Lithuanian independence talks on neutral ground in Prague.