Soviet troops entered a Lithuanian Communist Party printing plant Friday, breaking windows, roughing up security guards and frightening workers, a spokeswoman for the republic's government said.
The local Communist Party has split over the Lithuanian independence issue, with the pro- and anti-Moscow factions disputing who should control the party printing facility.Since the republic declared independence March 11, Soviet troops have occupied other buildings on behalf of communists loyal to Moscow. Several weeks ago, troops arrived outside the printing plant but did not enter.
Lithuanian government spokeswoman Ellen Gordon said about 50 Soviet soldiers occupied the plant, which prints mostly journals. Windows were broken and several civilian security guards were roughed up, she said.
The soldiers remained inside the fence surrounding the plant as about 200 Lithuanians gathered outside, Gordon said. Lithuanian Interior Ministry forces arrived later, but remained outside.
The military action came a day after the Soviet Union cut off 84 percent of the natural gas and all oil to the republic to force it to revoke its declaration of independence. Lithuania limited its citizens Friday to a monthly ration of less than 8 gallons of gasoline.
Gorbachev warns Estonia
Even as Lithuania denied reports it was prepared to delay secession to win talks with Moscow, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev warned Estonia it will face the same economic sanctions as well as rule by decree from Moscow if it persists with its independence drive, an Estonian legislator said Friday.
Radio Moscow said Friday some Lithuanian legislators had asked that the republic's March 11 declaration of independence be suspended until May 1 to get talks with Moscow going. Gorbachev has said there would be no negotiations with Vilnius until the declaration is revoked.
Under presidential rule, entire republics can be ruled directly from Moscow by decree.
Unlike Lithuania, Estonia's parliament passed an act aimed at beginning "a transition to independence." Apparently, that relatively mild wording did not satisfy Gorbachev.
In Oslo, Norway, Lithuania's Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene on Friday denied that the secession-minded republic was prepared to delay independence by two years to get Moscow to agree to talks on secession.
"There is no question of rescinding our declaration of independence," Prunskiene said in Oslo. "Lithuania will survive although life will be reduced to a minimum."
Prunskiene traveled to Norway to try to obtain oil to compensate for the Soviet shortfall but has failed to reach a deal.
In a David-and-Goliath twist, Moscow Radio said Friday that Lithuanian authorities were making sure local Soviet army units got no fuel. Local authorities still control the meager energy supplies they receive.
U.S.-Soviet relations strained
In Moscow, a senior Western diplomat said Friday that Soviet strong-arm tactics against Lithuania would affect U.S.-Soviet relations.
"Both the use of force and economic strangulation (against Lithuania) would have a very big effect. If the Soviet Union moves in the wrong direction, you would get a major disruption" in bilateral relations, the diplomat said.
A Lithuanian planning official said Moscow also was making it difficult for Lithuania to use its hard currency reserves, which it would need to buy oil from foreign producers. The Supreme Soviet gave Lithuania economic autonomy last year but the republic's foreign currency reserves are in a Moscow bank.
Gas rationing plan drafted
The republic's Council of Ministers held an emergency meeting to discuss the Soviet sanctions and draw up a plan for rationing and conservation.
Motorists waited in long lines at gasoline stations to receive a ration of 2.6 gallons each. The government information bureau said gasoline rations Friday were set at 7.9 gallons per car per month.
Even with rationing, without new oil supplies, gasoline reserves will only last two weeks, Lithuanian Energy Minister Leonas Asmontas said.
The economic sanctions were imposed by the Kremlin to force Lithuania to revoke its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, which annexed Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in a secret pact with Nazi Germany in 1940.
White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater on Friday said U.S. officials are continuing to talk with allies about possible responses to the energy embargo imposed on Lithuania.
He emphasized "there's still a lot of unknowns" and said the administration "wants to be as sure-footed as possible" in its dealings with Moscow.