VILNIUS, U.S.S.R., JAN. 16 -- Hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians paid an emotional farewell today to the unarmed civilians killed by Soviet paratroops here last Sunday, in what many participants described as a huge demonstration of popular support for freedom and independence.

As the mass funeral was held, Soviet state television sharply escalated the propaganda war by airing a program claiming that Lithuanian leaders planned to "exterminate" active Communists.

By asserting that a civil war is now being waged in this Baltic republic and that the fate of the non-Lithuanian minority hangs in the balance, the program appeared to lay the ideological groundwork for military action against the democratically elected Lithuanian parliament.

"Lithuania seems determined to drink the bitter cup of civil war and fratricide," said the commentator, as a picture of a demented figure raising a bowl of fire to his lips was shown on the screen.

"Lithuanian leaders seem unable to understand that we have no right to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, Russians and Poles who are living on this land."

In the neighboring Baltic republic of Latvia, the first shooting death was reported today. Roberts Murnieks, 39, was driving a van across a bridge in a northern suburb of Riga, the Latvian capital, when he was shot in the head by an elite "black beret" unit of Soviet Interior Ministry forces, according to spokesmen for the Latvian parliament.

Latvian spokesmen and Western reporters said the units also attacked other vehicles in the same area, which is near a large Soviet military base.

In Latvia, as in Lithuania, pro-Moscow Communists have formed a National Salvation Committee and demanded the resignation of the year-old democratically elected government.

It is clear that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is committed to a crackdown against Baltic separatist movements, which he has repeatedly accused of violating the Soviet constitution. It is also clear that the Soviet military is prepared to move against the Lithuanian parliament as soon as it receives orders from Moscow, but the Lithuanian legislators have vowed not to surrender without a fight, and they are receiving political support from democratic forces in other Soviet republics.

Over the past two days, the Lithuanian government has strengthened anti-tank defenses around the parliament building, using cranes to build a 12-foot-high concrete wall on three sides of the building as well as digging a 15-foot ditch.

The wall is adorned with posters depicting the Soviet president as a murderer.

"Gorby, hell is waiting for you," read one slogan in English, next to a crude drawing of Gorbachev with horns. "The Red Army is Red Fascism," proclaimed another.

Most of the thousands of civilians who kept watch outside the building for most of the past week have now left. But, as the 1,000 or so legislators and Lithuanian soldiers inside parliament prepared for another anxious night, hundreds of supporters kept vigil around flickering bonfires in the street outside. Some brought their children to witness what many believe could be the dying moments of the first freely elected Lithuanian legislature in a half-century.

"I brought my 7-year-old son here so that he could describe this scene to his children," said Bronas Laurinavicius.

"I was on duty outside the television station last Sunday morning {when it was seized by paratroops}, and my son asked me if he could come here."

Nearby, bundled up against the cold, a 3-year-old girl named Zhivele Kaslauskas was watching with wide eyes as her parents discussed Lithuania's chances of gaining full independence.

"In the end, I am sure we will win. This empire cannot last. One day, Russians will themselves rise up against it," said her father, Alvidas.

Earlier in the day, Lithuanians from all over the republic of 3.4 million turned out for the funeral of nine of the 13 civilians killed when paratroops supported by tanks and other armored vehicles took over the Vilnius television station. The four-mile route from the sports center where the bodies of the victims lay in state to the cemetery was lined virtually all the way by five-deep crowds of people, many clutching candles and some brushing away tears.

Asked for a crowd estimate, a police major replied: "The population of Vilnius is something over a half-million. That's how many people are here."

The procession was led by hundreds of Vilnius university students bearing elaborate wreaths sent to honor the dead. Then came nine flatbed trucks bearing the coffins of the Vilnius citizens crushed by Soviet tanks or shot by paratroops during the takeover of the television station. Each truck was followed by grieving relatives and friends.

"If you Americans still believe in Gorbachev after this, you will soon be having these processions in the United States, and I personally will be happy," said Antonas Naraivicius, an economist, as he walked behind the coffin of 17-year-old Ignas Simulionis, who was killed by a bullet through the forehead. "Bush has given up everything that Reagan achieved in pushing back the Soviet empire."

At the Vilnius cathedral, which had been turned into a museum after the war by Communist authorities but handed back to the church two years ago, mourners heard the city's Russian Orthodox archbishop apologize for the action of Russian soldiers.

"This is a shame for us Russians," said Archbishop Khrisostom, attacking the "forces that want to confirm Communist power in Lithuania,"

Roman Catholic archbishop Julijonarias Steponavicius, who was released from house arrest in 1989, accused Gorbachev and his defense minister, Dmitri Yazov, of trying to absolve themselves of responsibility for the killings by claiming that the order to attack had come from the local military commander. "All this looks like Pontius Pilate washing his hands."

During the memorial service, the military commander of Vilnius, Maj. Gen. Vladimir Uskhochnik, phoned the cathedral and demanded to speak with Lithuanian Deputy Prime Minister Zigmas Vaisvila.

According to Vaisvila, the general complained that three Lithuanians were attempting to erect a large cross near the television station to commemorate the dead, and he demanded that the "troublemakers" be stopped immediately.

At 2 p.m., in the middle of the service, Soviet state television began broadcasting a 10-minute film that claimed the Lithuanian victims had all died of "traffic accidents" or "heart attacks."

The narrator, Alexander Nevzorov, maintained also that "the shooting had already started" by the time 160 paratroops arrived on the scene to restore order, a statement completely at odds with the reports of numerous Western reporters who were present.

Nevzorov supported his allegations that Lithuanian leaders were organizing a witch-hunt against the army and the Communist Party with a videotape that purported to show Lithuanian "armed bandits" besieging a Soviet anti-terrorist squad for several hours on Monday. Pictured with an automatic assault rifle slung over his shoulder, the narrator claimed that the Soviet squad members were rescued from Lithuanian snipers by a column of 10 armored cars.

The Lithuanian Interior Ministry said no such incident took place Monday. The allegations are unlikely to carry much weight with Vilnius residents but could have impact in the Russian republic, where Nevzorov has become a journalistic cult figure as a result of a series of sensational programs exposing corruption and crime.

Pavel Voshchanov, a legislator from the Russian republic who travelled to the Lithuanian capital today for the funeral, expressed fears that Russia "could be next" after the Baltic republics if Gorbachev continues the crackdown.

He said the Kremlin could be considering "a similar scenario" to topple Russian President Boris Yeltsin, except that the flashpoint was likely to be economic hardship rather than ethnic conflict.

"Of course, Russia is much bigger than Lithuania, but the Soviet Union has a big army," Voshchanov said.