MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev told local citizens in the Baltic republic of Latvia on Tuesday that the next two or three years will be the hardest in his drive to revitalize the economy.
Gorbachev was speaking to people in the streets of Riga, the Latvian capital, on the first day of a three-day visit to the politically sensitive republic, a report of which was shown on television.
Gorbachev, accompanied by his wife, Raisa, smiled and joked with the crowd, and in the style he has set in many walk-around visits since taking office in 1985, urged his audience to express their own views.
The Soviet leader is making his first trip to the Baltic states since he became Communist Party chief. Moscow radio said he will next visit the neighboring republics of Estonia and Lithuania.
The Baltic states were independent between the two world wars but were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940.