President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Soviet lawmakers on Friday threw their support to the Romanian people who overthrew the 24-year regime of Nicolae Ceausescu.
Members of the parliament broke into applause when Gorbachev announced that Romanian radio had reported Ceausescu's arrest. Then, on Gorbachev's suggestion, they adopted a resolution offering "decisive support for the just cause of the people of Romania."The evening news show "Vremya" showed stunning footage of hundreds of thousands of Romanians packed into vast squares in downtown Bucharest, demonstrating to topple Ceausescu's regime.
Jubilant Romanians dumped books from the balcony of the Communist Party building, rode armored personnel carriers through the streets and waved tri-color national flags with gaping holes where the emblem of socialist Romania had been cut out.
"At this very moment, the capital of Romania is swept away with happiness," reported Sergei Zheleznyak from Bucharest.
However, later reports from East bloc media said that pro-Ceausescu forces attacked the city and that fierce battles raged between army units sympathetic to the protesters and security forces loyal to their fallen leader.
The official news agency Tass, formerly a mouthpiece of Communist orthodoxy, graphically chronicled Ceausescu's ouster.
"Hundreds of people have climbed up on tanks and APCs (armored personnel carriers) and unfurled slogans, such as `We are for freedom!' `We want democracy!' and `Away with the dictatorship!' " it said.
At the parliament, the Congress of People's Deputies, about 200 deputies crowded around a Tass news monitor in the lobby when it flashed the first report of Ceausescu's flight.
"It's a holiday!" said deputy Roald Z. Sagdeyev.
Another deputy was heard to comment, "We are the only two dictatorships left - Albania and the Soviet Union." A more conservative colleague muttered, "They are surrounding us from all sides."
Soviet officials refrained from condemning the violent confrontations between the government and demonstrators this past week, until it was reported that Ceausescu was trying to flee.
On Thursday, government spokesman Vadim Perfiliev would say only that "We will be very sorry for them" if reports of casualties were correct. Even Friday morning, Gorbachev supported a mild resolution that merely called for a peaceful solution.
At midday, Gorbachev announced the latest news to a hushed session: 500,000 people were marching in the streets, the army had gone over to the people, the defense minister had committed suicide and helicopters were hovering over Ceausescu's home.
Left with that report, the deputies broke for lunch.