President Mikhail Gorbachev told Lithuanian lawmakers Thursday he is facing increasing demands to impose direct rule in the restive Baltic republic if it does not comply with national laws.
Gorbachev's toughly worded appeal to the Lithuanian parliament, released by the official Tass news agency, accused the lawmakers of violating the Soviet constitution, infringing on citizens' rights and ignoring his decrees.Underscoring the importance of the statement, a Soviet television newscaster read it on the air live just minutes after Tass released it.
Gorbachev said citizens, social and political organizations and others have demanded "restoration of constitutional order, reliable guarantees of the security and normal conditions of life."
"They demand the introduction of presidential rule," he said.
He urged the Lithuanian parliament, the Supreme Soviet, to mend its ways.
"The Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic must understand with all due measure its responsiblity to the people of the republic and the Soviet Union," he said.
Gorbachev did not specifically threaten to impose presidential rule but hinted he would if the republic's lawmakers don't fall in line.
Presidential rule could involve Gorbachev disbanding the Lithuanian parliament and banning demonstrations and political groups.
He did not spell out how Lithuania was violating the constitution but previously has complained about its law allowing youths in the republic to perform alternative service to joining the Soviet army, and about its March declaration of independence. He has said that if Lithuania wants to secede from the union, it must hold a referendum on the issue and wait a few years before making the break.
Moscow's decision to send paratroopers to enforce conscription in seven secessionist republics has raised tensions, particularly in the three Baltic states.