Russia to withdraw troops from Lithuania next year

MOSCOW (Reuter) - The Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, and the Lithuanian leader, Vytautas Landsbergis, agreed yesterday all former Soviet troops should be withdrawn from the Baltic republic by 31 August next year.

A Russian presidential spokesman said the two leaders agreed on the deadline at talks in Moscow; a withdrawal schedule was signed by their defence ministers. The spokesman gave no further details of the deal, which moves forward the previous 1994 deadline set by Russia.

Russia had said that the troops could not be pulled out earlier because withdrawals from former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe had not been completed; there was no housing for to accommodate the soldiers. A senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said this month that Moscow might bring forward to 1993 the date for a complete withdrawal of the 130,000 or so troops in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which see the troops, under Russian jurisdiction, as a threat to their sovereignty.