Gorbachev Says Lithuanian Independence Is Invalid
KREMLIN chief Mikhail Gorbachev yesterday denounced Lithuania's independence declaration as invalid and ruled out talks on secession with all three Baltic republics. ``I believe this decision was illegitimate and invalid,'' Mr. Gorbachev said at the start of the second day of the Congress of People's Deputies, the expanded Soviet parliament. ``Lithuanians, along with representatives of Latvia and Estonia, have asked to hold talks. There can be no question of talks. We hold talks only with foreign states.''
Gorbachev said the Soviet leadership would make a political and legal assessment of the Lithuanian declaration of independence, which was approved by the Baltic republic's parliament Sunday night. ``Our position will be made public as soon as possible,'' he said.
Gorbachev said the issue would be put to the Supreme Soviet as soon as the congress ends its session, expected today. By then Gorbachev is expected to hold a powerful new presidential post, which he asked the congress to create. It would give him far-reaching powers, including the ability to rule by decree. Gorbachev's denunciation of the Lithuanian decision drew scattered applause. The Soviet leader read aloud to the congress a number of telegrams condemning the Lithuanian move, including several from citizens of the republic itself.
Meanwhile, there were signs that a compromise was being attempted between the Kremlin and some opponents of the proposed new presidential post - which include deputies from the Baltic republics, Transcaucasia, and the ``Inter-Regional Group'' of radical delegates.
Georgy Shakhnazarov, an aide to Gorbachev, told reporters before the session opened that several amendments had been proposed, including one that would ``ensure Baltic participation in the vote.''
The proposal would change the law to compel the president to get the consent of a republic's leadership before declaring a state of emergency there. If the republic refused, the president would have to get approval from the Supreme Soviet in Moscow.
Estonian Arnold Rutel, also speaking to reporters before the session opened, said his republic's delegates had met Gorbachev Monday and asked to take part in the government commission that has been set up to assess the Lithuanian independence declaration.
The Estonians also asked for negotiations on sovereignty with Moscow, Mr. Rutel said. The response he described was quite different from the hard line that Gorbachev laid down to the congress yesterday. ``Gorbachev said let us consider that talks have already begun,'' Rutel said.
Gorbachev said the commission on Lithuania was headed by Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov and had already started its work.
His remarks on negotiations with the Baltic republics were immediately criticized by Latvian deputy Andres Plotnyeks, who said the talks must take place.
``You may call them whatever you like, but there will have to be talks between the center and the republics on the basis of equality and not diktat,'' Mr. Plotnyeks said.