Well-placed Soviet officials yesterday privately expressed horror at the massacre in Beijing and disappointment with the Chinese leaders who called out the troops. The officials added that they were not yet sure how their government would respond to the killings, but said that the bloodshed placed the Soviet leadership in a quandary. ``We don't know whether we should respond like the US or Britain, or in some other way,'' said one official who works on China policy. On the one hand, the Chinese leaders who called out the tanks are the same men who normalized relations with Moscow just last month. On the other, the official added, the massacre came at a time when ``we were hoping that socialism was acquiring a new face.''
Coverage of the massacre in the official news media yesterday was short in length, but unusually sharp in content: ``Troops are opening fire without warning,'' said a brief Tass report published in the main party newspaper, Pravda. ``Under the eyes of foreign correspondents, a seven-year-old girl was shot dead.'' Pravda relegated the official Chinese explanation for the action to end of the article.
Meanwhile television news on Sunday night showed four minutes of film footage from Beijing, including blazing military vehicles and armored cars speeding through the city. The television report took the unusual step of describing the events in the words of Western news agencies as well as official Chinese sources.
Soviet officials say they have no information on the position of party chief Zhao Ziyang. During the Sino-Soviet summit last month, Soviet spokesmen stressed the close similarity of views between Mikhail Gorbachev and Mr. Zhao.
``Obviously, if the Chinese government has called out the troops, Zhao's line has been defeated,'' the China specialist said. ``We now have to expect a personnel shake-up at the top and a party plenum,'' he concluded.