Soviet officials said Monday a bloody special forces attack against the Latvian Interior Ministry was not ordered by the Kremlin, blaming it instead on local tension connected with the Baltic drive for independence.
Five people were killed and 10 were wounded in the attack Sunday night by a special unit of the Soviet Interior Ministry against the Latvian Interior Ministry that is loyal to the republic's nationalist government.The special forces soldiers took over the Latvian Interior Ministry, which controls the republic's police forces, in a gun battle Sunday night and gave up the building and returned to their barracks early Monday.
Latvia's Deputy Prime Minister Ilmars Bisers met with Soviet Interior Minister Boris Pugo to discuss the incident Monday and a deputy Soviet interior minister was sent to Riga for talks.
Denials by officials in Moscow of any advance knowledge or specific orders for the assault in Latvia echoed statements made a week ago after 14 people were killed in a troop and tank assault on the Lithuanian television center.
Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitaly Churkin said the violence grew from tensions between pro-independence and anti-independence forces in the Baltic republics.
"I am not justifying it, I have my problems with it too," Churkin said of Sunday night's attack. "It was an extreme reaction by a certain group of people put in a very difficult situation."
USSR Supreme Soviet Deputy Anatoly Denisov, who led a delegation that just returned from Latvia, said the violence in the republic stemmed from actions by the republic to break with Moscow.
He added that the Russian minority in Latvia and troops loyal to the Soviet Union and their families "feel threatened" by the nationalist movement, and said direct presidential rule from Moscow may be the only way to bring calm to the republic.
Denisov said Latvian President Anatolijs Gorbunovs and Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis would meet Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow Tuesday.