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Lithuanian President: Moscow Waging ‘Psychological Warfare’

March 23, 1990

VILNIUS, U.S.S.R. (AP) _ Lithuanian President Vytautus Landsbergis today accused Moscow of waging ″psychological warfare″ to force his Baltic republic to renounce its declaration of independence.

And, in a letter to the Soviet Parliament, he said that any attempt by the Soviet government or military to interfere with the enforcement of Lithuanian law would be a violation of international law.

Soviet armor rumbled through the Lithuanian capital’s streets on Thursday, prompting the republic’s leaders to issue a worldwide appeal for support and express concern that increasing Kremlin pressure would lead to violence.

The appeal followed orders from Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev that Lithuania stop signing up its own volunteer forces. He gave Landsbergis two days to reply, and ordered citizens to surrender their firearms within a week.

At the same time, Soviet military authorities ordered Lithuanian soldiers who deserted in the wake of independence to return to their units by Saturday, touching off fears that the rounding up of deserters would be used as a pretext to use military force.

Landsbergis said he was ″concerned″ that both deadlines fell on Saturday.

In Moscow, Gorbachev’s military adviser, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, told reporters that the army would act in accordance with Soviet laws in dealing with deserters.

Asked if mass arrests might not cause disruption in Lithuania and make Moscow look bad, Akhromeyev said: ″Whether it looks good or looks bad, there’s an established order, even if some people don’t like it.″

He said deserters would be detained and sent back to their units, where their fate would be determined. Some Lithuanians have deserted their units after complaining that fellow soldiers beat them in retaliation for their republic’s declaration of independence.

Landsbergis said the Kremlin ″was going from economic warfare to psychological warfare″ in its attempts to make Lithuania renounce its March 11 declaration, according to Rita Dapkus of the Parliament’s information center.

″New troops and maneuvers suggest that this is a psychological war,″ Landsbergis told parliament today.

Landsbergis’ attitude toward Gorbachev appeared conciliatory. ″Perhaps he faces obstacles,″ he said, adding that he still believed in the Soviet leader and hoped his good sense and moderation will lead a resolution of the problems.

Landsbergis appealed directly to the Soviet legislature for negotiations to solve the issues that Gorbachev has raised. A three-page letter was sent to the Supreme Soviet.

″Any attempt by the government or military organizations of the U.S.S.R. to interfere in enforcement of Lithuanian law in Lithuania will be viewed as a violation of generally recognized principles of international law,″ the letter said.

The letter added that in a 1920 treaty, the Soviet Union recognized ″for all time″ the sovereign rights and independence of Lithuania.

Landsbergis opened the session with an account of the U.S. Senate’s resolution Thursday night urging Moscow to stop intimidating Lithuania and asking President Bush to consider granting the republic diplomatic recognition.

″The reaction was applause,″ Dapkus said.

The Kremlin has said it would not use force to bring Lithuania back into the Soviet Union. But Lithuanians have become increasingly concerned by the growing Soviet military presence in their Baltic republic.

″It is clear that another republic is going to use force against Lithuania and its citizens,″ said a Lithuanian government appeal to the world issued late Thursday. ″We are asking people to prevent this by protesting the possible use of violence against a member of the world community, against Lithuania and its citizens.″

A Lithuanian journalist identified only as R. Valatka said Thursday on late-night Lithuanian television that KGB officials had been going around to police stations asking for counts of their weapons.

The republic’s police force has not been asked to turn in its arms, but Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene said the KGB ″might even try to take weapons from the police, I don’t know.″

″We need support, we need help,″ said Ludwigas Sabutis, the republic’s parliamentary secretary.

Landsbergis told the Supreme Council legislature Thursday that the republic would not use weapons, even if the Soviet Union crushed its drive for full independence.

″If tanks are sent to take away shotguns and hunting rifles, we won’t shoot at the tanks,″ he said. ″Our resistance will be non-violence.″

Gorbachev, in a telegram to Landsbergis, demanded a halt to formation of volunteer brigades in Lithuania that he said were intended to replace Soviet border guards and part of the uniformed police.

He gave Landsbergis two days to repond.

Although volunteers are signing up for the squads in Lithuania, no brigades have been formed and there are no indications they would be armed.

The official Soviet news agency Tass said border controls and exit and entry in Lithuania were being tightened in keeping with a directive Wednesday from Gorbachev.

Gorbachev has called Lithuania’s declaration of independence illegal but has also said he would not use force to keep it from seceding from the Soviet Union.

Lithuania was independent from 1918 until 1940, when the Soviet Union forcibly annexed it along with Latvia and Estonia. So far, no foreign country has officially recognized Lithuania as independent.

The republic of 3.8 million had rushed to declare its independence before Gorbachev gained broad powers that include authority to impose direct presidential rule on areas of the Soviet Union.