Hundreds of Italians staged a sit-in outside the Soviet Embassy in Rome late Monday, shouting "Freedom for Gorbachev!" while a skeptical government expressed doubts that anyone but the deposed Soviet leader could surmount the Soviet Union's problems.
"I am surprised, embittered and worried," Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, who is on vacation, said in a statement. "We know all the difficulties Gorbachev faced. I can't see how a new president who, for now at least, lacks his prestige and international relations will overcome these obstacles."
Italian television showed several hundred protesters gathered Monday night outside the Soviet Embassy in Rome in response to a call by the tiny Radical Party to demonstrate. Communists also announced plans to take to the streets in Bologna to demand Gorbachev's reinstatement, and the country's three largest trade unions planned to meet today to discuss other "urgent initiatives."
Andreotti is one of Gorbachev's closest Western allies, and he managed to persuade other leaders of the Group of Seven to see Gorbachev at their meeting last month in London. Italy, which is Moscow's biggest Western trading partner after Germany, made no move to suspend credits to the Soviet Union.