The Russian parliament Thursday failed to muster enough votes to pass a resolution condemning the Kremlin's crackdown in Lithuania, where Soviet troops have seized another government building.
The legislature voted 117-51 in favor of the resolution, which had the backing of Boris Yeltsin, the Russian federation president. But the measure lacked by eight votes a majority of the 250-member body.The vote was a victory for Communist Party conservatives who have been demanding Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev take tough measures against the separatist Baltic republics and other groups challenging central authority.
The resolution would have condemned pro-Kremlin National Salvation Committees in Lithuania and Latvia for appealing to the army in "a prepared attempt to replace the legally elected organs of state power."
It also declared that any similar committee would be unconstitutional in Russia, by far the largest of the 15 Soviet republics.
The Russian legislature postponed debate on the issue until Wednesday.
In the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, Soviet tanks were seen moving overnight through the city, despite an appeal Wednesday from Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis to Gorbachev to withdraw Soviet soldiers from occupied buildings.
A Lithuanian government spokesman said the situation was still dangerous.
Soviet troops seized the main publishing house and the main broadcast center earlier in the month, and "black beret" commandos occupied the central main paper and dye warehouse in the Lithuanian capital on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials said Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh will meet with President Bush this weekend as the administration nears a decision on whether to postpone next month's summit meeting in Moscow.
Bush has "made it clear he has really, really told Gorbachev in no uncertain terms," of his displeasure about the military crackdown against the breakaway republics, House Republican leader Bob Michel said Thursday as GOP leaders left the White House.
Michel said Bush indicated "he has to look at it in a little bit the bigger picture."
In Latvia, President Anatolijs Gorbunovs in a major concession to Moscow said he had accepted Gorbachev's demand for a referendum on independence in the Baltic republic.
Gorbunovs, briefing his legislature and reporters on Tuesday's peace talks at the Kremlin, also said Wednesday he agreed with the Soviet president that some laws passed by the nationalist controlled Parliament might have to be reviewed and possibly changed.
But the Latvian leader said he insisted to Gorbachev that his people could not "return to zero" and accept the authority of the Soviet Constitution in the republic, which was annexed in 1940 along with neighboring Estonia and Lithuania.
In a nationally televised address Tuesday night after his 21/2-hour meeting with Gorbunovs, Gorbachev expressed regret for the recent military assault in Lithuania and Latvia but refused to budge from his demand the two republics and Estonia follow Soviet law.
The cobblestoned Old City streets of Riga, Latvia's medieval capital of nearly 1 million people, remained heavily barricaded Wednesday with hundreds of volunteers manning checkpoints blocked by trucks, buses, concrete girders and netting.
In Washington, the House voted unanimously Wednesday to condemn the Soviet Union for its crackdown on the Baltic republics and to ask Bush to consider economic sanctions if it continues.
The 417-0 vote Wednesday came as presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater criticized Baltic-American leaders who had accused Bush of responding weakly to the recent violence in which at least 19 people were killed.