Soviet troops patrol streets in Lithuanian city Civil leaders fear army encroachments

December 22, 1990|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- As the Soviet Union pondered Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze's resignation and dramatic warning against dictatorship, Soviet troops were patrolling the streets of the Lithuanian city of Klaipeda yesterday in defiance of Lithuanian officials' protests.

The armed soldiers are authorized by their garrison commander to check citizens' documents and arrest anyone who resists, the Soviet news agency Tass reported.

Klaipeda Mayor Vytautas Cepas called the patrols "an open provocation" and said he expected they would soon be extended to the entire republic.

Meanwhile, 500 representatives of army, KGB and Ministry of Internal Affairs troops in the three Baltic republics met in Riga. They warned against anti-army actions and demanded direct presidential rule in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The Klaipeda case is another example of the steady encroachment of the military and KGB in recent weeks on civilian life, and not only in the Baltic republics.

In the absence of radical economic reform, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has given the KGB the lead role in fighting the massive waste and profiteering rampant in the state-run economy. He has pledged to defend the army from criticism and has put the former commander of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, General Boris V. Gromov, in charge of riot troops used at home.

Meanwhile, Mr. Shevardnadze's surprise resignation, and his warnings that a dictatorship was imminent in the Soviet Union, continued to be discussed.

Members of the Congress of People's Deputies said his warning should be heeded precisely because a dictatorial regime might come gradually and might not require the departure of Mr. Gorbachev.

There already has been a "quiet, creeping, right-wing coup," Ukrainian economist Vladimir K. Chernyak declared.

"Reactionaries, centralists and imperialists have united and are on the attack. At the head of the coup stands Gorbachev, and it's possible he himself does not even suspect it. By demanding for himself more and

more powers, he is creating the legal basis for a dictatorship," he said.

Mr. Shevardnadze, who has agreed to stay on until a replacement is named, held a two-hour meeting yesterday with Mr. Gorbachev. Presidential spokesman Vitaly Ignatenko told reporters that the two talked about the Persian Gulf crisis, U.S.-Soviet arms talks and other international issues but did not discuss the foreign minister's resignation.

Diplomats were skeptical, noting that Mr. Gorbachev had said he intended to talk with Mr. Shevardnadze about his resignation. They said Mr. Gorbachev, concerned about the alarm set off around the world by the resignation, is trying to project an image of calm and continuity in foreign policy.

Signs were that, in fact, foreign policy is unlikely to change dramatically as a result of Mr. Shevardnadze's departure. Most of the names mentioned prominently as top candidates for the post are career diplomats who are likely to maintain Mr. Gorbachev's line.

Gorbachev aide Georgy K. Shakhnazarov said he expected Mr. Shevardnadze to remain in the Gorbachev leadership in some post. Mr. Gorbachev said Thursday he had intended to nominate him for the new vice presidency, but implied that he might have changed his mind.

Also, the semi-official news service Interfax, citing well-informed sources, said Soviet Finance Minister Valentin Pavlov will be Mr. Gorbachev's nominee for the post of prime minister in a reshuffled government.

The appointment would disappoint reformers, who would see Mr. Pavlov as likely to continue the battle of his outgoing boss, Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov, to preserve the mammoth central government.

Perhaps the only Gorbachev aide more important to his reforms than Mr. Shevardnadze, Alexander N. Yakovlev, will lose his only official post, as a member of the Presidential Council, when the council is dissolved this month.

Without Mr. Yakovlev or Mr. Shevardnadze at his side, Mr. Gorbachev would be likely to become still more reliant on such prominent conservatives as KGB chief Vladimir A. Kryuchkov and Defense Minister Dmitry T. Yazov.

Leningrad Mayor Anatoly A. Sobchak, a prominent reformer, said yesterday democrats should insist on swift completion of an economic agreement between the 15 Soviet republics to prevent further chaos.

Otherwise, he said, thousands of enterprises will be forced to close next month for lack of supplies. "Then all of us, democrats, radicals and conservatives, will go bow to the military and ask them to come help us," Mr. Sobchak said.

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