Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has outlawed Lithuania's scheduled independence plebiscite and accused the Baltic republic's leaders of trying ``to organize support for their separatist aspirations.'' In a presidential decree carried on the official Tass news agency, Mr. Gorbachev said Lithuania's plans to hold an independence vote on Saturday contradicts the March 17 referendum scheduled for the entire Soviet Union.
Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders have repeatedly said that the Vilnius legislature, which declared independence last March, does not reflect the views of most people in Lithuania. Tass has even accused it of carrying out a ``parliamentary coup.''
The plebiscite, for which absentee balloting began Monday, asks Lithuanian citizens to vote on whether they want to live in ``an independent, democratic republic.''
Gorbachev said the plebiscite, which the republic's parliament calls an ``opinion poll,'' is only advisory in nature and ``cannot be regarded otherwise than as an intention to block enactment in the republic of the USSR parliament resolution on holding a referendum'' in the entire country.
A number of Soviet republics have said they will not participate in the national referendum, which will ask Soviet citizens if they want to be part of a union bound by the new internal treaty Gorbachev is promoting.
Estonia said Wednesday it was going ahead with a March 3 referendum to determine its future, despite Gorbachev's declaration Tuesday that the referendum in Lithuania was illegal.