Separatist officials in Lithuania said Saturday the commander of the Soviet army garrison in the republic's capital has warned that his troops are becoming "more and more out of control."
Several thousand Lithuanians on Saturday milled around the parliament in Vilnius, responding to a request by President Vytautas Landsbergis for a large presence to discourage any weekend assault by Kremlin forces.The official Soviet news agency, Tass, reported the pro-Kremlin National Salvation Committee suspended activity in the interests of restoring order. There were no details.
The committee and a similar pro-Moscow group in the neighboring Baltic republic of Latvia have called for the Kremlin to take control of the republics. Soviet authorities said they were acting at the request of the local committee when they attacked a Lithuanian broadcast station Jan. 13, killing 14 people.
Soviet forces also attacked Latvia's interior ministry last weekend, leaving four people dead.
Lithuanian government spokesman Audrius Azubalis said Landsbergis had received a letter late Friday from Soviet Major Gen. Vladimir Uskhopchik.
According to Lithuanian officials, Uskhopchik complained in his letter that local police under Lithuanian government control were failing to guarantee order. The officials did not release the full text.
As a result, the general said, "the situation in the Vilnius garrison is getting more and more out of control."
Azubalis said, "I do not know if this is a threat or just a fear. But I know it is very dangerous."
Lithuanian officials already have complained of "banditry" by Soviet troops. Landsbergis said his republic opposes newly announced plans by Moscow to have joint army and internal troop patrols of major cities throughout the Soviet Union beginning Feb. 1.
The reported lack of discipline among the troops appeared to be borne out when Lithuanian parliament guards were taken into custody by Soviet paratroopers in an armored car column Thursday night.
Five of six Lithuanians seized after a shooting incident involving the paratroopers were released, but three remained hospitalized with injuries they said they incurred in beatings.
One of the three, interviewed in his hospital bed, said locally based officers appeared to have little control over elite paratroopers sent to Lithuania to round up draft resisters. He did not give his name.
The roundup is part of Moscow's effort to rein in the Baltics, which began their independence drive in March. The Kremlin has also used economic sanctions against Lithuania.
Azubalis said the Lithuanian government was told that one guard would remain in detention for three days because he had been carrying a pistol. Azubalis said the man had been armed to guard a shipment of money for parliament.
Lithuanians fear Soviet troops will attack their parliament headquarters in Vilnius. The parliament press office said Saturday there was unusually little Soviet troop movement in Vilnius overnight but that Lithuanians should remain vigilant.