Double-Dealing in Lithuania
THE Soviet Bloody Sunday coup d'etat attempt against Lithuania in January did not stop at the barricaded Parliament in Vilnius. That is where it started. In the three months since Soviet Black Berets and paratroops killed 15 and wounded 400 singing civilians in the attack on the Vilnius broadcast center, Moscow-directed terror has continued unabated. On April 24 and 25, Black Berets and paratroops stormed 12 more buildings throughout the besieged republic - including the Central Republic Bank and two airports.Skip to next paragraph
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Rather than dealing in good faith with Lithuania as Mr. Gorbachev claims - with a negotiated independence as an ultimate end - the Kremlin has simply changed tactics. The goal is the same: Beat Lithuania back into the Soviet Union. When the outrage of the West halted the quick January putsch, Moscow switched to a strategy of low-profile terror and political sabotage.
Several weeks ago, on the day following the opening round of talks between Moscow and Vilnius, during which Kremlin negotiators refused to make a commitment against further violence and rejected an offer by Iceland to mediate, Soviet troops seized another Lithuanian building and threatened to storm the central communications center. When President Landsbergis questioned Gorbachev by telephone, he was told by the Soviet leader to speak to the Kremlin delegation chairman Vitaly Doguzhyev - who, according to Gorbachev, held the reins on the military. Mr. Doguzhyev denied he had authority to speak for the Soviet Army and claimed to have no say over the occupation of Lithuanian buildings.
With the Soviet military threatening to cut off Lithuania's telephone system, Gorbachev left for Japan and Korea and gave Lithuania no clear answer as to whom the military answers to in Vilnius. When he returned with $3 billion from South Korea and renewed his request to Washington for an extra $1.5 billion, his army had seized another Lithuanian border outpost and moved three divisions of troops into Lithuania from the Kaliningrad region.
Tomorrow, on the day Lithuanian President Landsbergis is scheduled to address the US Congress in what appears a deja vu appeal for support, Sen. Robert Dole (R) of Kansas pitches for $1.5 billion in US-backed loans for the Soviets - earmarked to buy his home state's grain.
``Giving more foreign aid to Moscow while ignoring what is currently developing in Lithuania is setting up another Bloody Sunday,'' says Mr. Landsbergis.
Together with more than 40,000 enlisted men, several divisions of special forces paratroopers remain in Lithuania. These veteran units, along with the KGB Black Berets, specialize in domestic terror. The arrival of more troops and tanks in Lithuania is almost a daily event.
Residents in Vilnius and Kaunas report random and violent searches by increasing numbers of Soviet patrols. With the spring Red Army draft call approaching, Lithuanians are bracing for a wholesale roundup of draft-age young men. Beginning on May 3, Soviet forces pledged to not only fill their quota of conscripts but compensate for past shortfalls.
ANOTHER ominous sign came when an officer known for gratuitous cruelty, Col. Gen. Vladimir Achalov, was promoted from his command of the airborne forces to Soviet deputy defense minister. His mandate from the Kremlin is to manipulate domestic unrest - which, according to past Soviet game plans, will be staged by one kind of Soviet military unit and ``pacified'' by another.
This dynamic is playing out in Lithuania. Paratroops are commanded by central Soviet authorities, other units answer to local commanders, and marauding Black Berets claim loyalty to no one. Masked in a charade of controlled confusion, Soviet terror proceeds with impunity. ``We are getting the impression that the leadership of the Soviet Union has either lost control over the military units in Lithuania, is lying, or plays a clever game of denial for the West,'' says a Parliament spokesman in Vilnius.
With the exception of Iceland, which formally recognized the independence of Lithuania in February, little mention comes from the West concerning the many buildings stormed by Red Army forces during the siege of Bloody Sunday. The European Community reinstated a multi-billion-dollar aid package to the Soviets shortly after Gorbachev pledged that Moscow would begin earnest negotiations with Lithuania.
However, Soviet troops still occupy the Vilnius broadcast center where pro-Moscow propaganda discredits the Lithuanian government daily. Since the press building and paper distribution plant are also under Soviet seizure, Lithuania's media remains crippled. Black Berets are now replacing enlisted men as guards in all of these places. Side arms of the Lithuanian police are routinely confiscated by Soviet Army patrols - leaving the civilian population with inadequate protection and providing Soviet provoc ateurs with defenseless targets.
How Mr. Gorbachev reconciles continued occupations and stepped-up violence into his reassurance of a ``lessening of tensions'' is a stretch even for Kremlin rhetoric.