MOSCOW, JAN. 17 -- Two former members of Mikhail Gorbachev's presidential cabinet and several officials and intellectuals who had long supported the Soviet leader published a declaration today calling the leadership "criminal."
"Now when the regime's final hours are near, it has joined the decisive battle by blocking economic reform, reanimating censorship of the press and television and supporting ugly demagogic language," the front-page statement in this week's liberal Moscow News said. "And most important, the regime has declared war on the republics."
The letter, signed by Stanislav Shatalin and Nikolai Petrakov, economists who were members of the Presidential Council until it was dissolved last month and replaced with another body, was the clearest sign yet that Sunday's military assault in Vilnius, the capital of Soviet Lithuania, has virtually ended Gorbachev's support among his own generation of reformers.
"We mourn not only for the victims in the Baltics and the dead," the statement continued. "On 'Bloody Sunday,' democracy was shot. This was a blow against a democratically elected government."
The list of signers is like a Who's Who of Gorbachev's team of democratic reformers. Among them are: journalist Alexander Bovin, economist Nikolai Shmelyov, filmmakers Elem Klimov and Tengiz Abuladze, literary historian Yuri Karyakin, sociologist Tatyana Zaslavskaya, Moscow Mayor Gavril Popov, theater director Mark Zakharov and Vyacheslav Shostokovsky, rector of the Communist Party Higher School.
This week's issue of Moscow News, a paper known as the flagship of Gorbachev's policy of glasnost, or openness, is filled with critical articles about the army crackdown in Lithuania and gruesome photographs, including one of a man who had been shot in the head. Gorbachev criticized the issue in the Soviet legislature on Wednesday and demanded that the lawmakers look into the lack of "objectivity" in the press.
In a related development, Sovietofficials today unilaterally blocked an attempt by the 33 other members of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to hold an urgent special session on the Kremlin crackdown in Lithuania and the other two Soviet Baltic republics. Estonia nad Latvia.
The call for the meeting, the first bid to invoke new conflict-resolution measures adopted by the conference states two months ago in Paris, was put forward by neutral Austria on behalf of three other neutrals, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland, as well as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland.
The Soviet Union, however, argued that the proposal amounted to interference in its internal affairs, diplomatic sources said.
CSCE leaders agreed at their November summit that additional meetings of participant states could be called to discuss questions of "urgent concern" but since this must be by consensus, Moscow appears to have succeeded in thwarting it. Delegates said the matter could be raised again at another CSCE session Jan. 28.
The Charter of Paris signed at the summit hailed "a new era of democracy, peace and unity" in Europe. In that document, the 34 states pledged to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any state. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which have declared their intention to secede from the Soviet Union, were granted observer status to the summit, but this was revoked under pressure from Moscow.
Representatives from several countries used today's session in Vienna to condemn the Kremlin's crackdown in the Baltics. U.S. Ambassador John Maresca, repeating a warning by President Bush, said that continued use of force would damage Washington's relations with Moscow. At Maresca's request, the delegations in Vienna observed a moment of silence in memory of the 13 civilians killed in Lithuania Sunday.
Special correspondent Michael Z. Wise in Vienna contributed to this report.