Gorbachev Ousts Rivals in Politburo Shake-Up : President Gromyko Retired, Others Fired; Soviet Leader’s Allies Put in Key Positions

Associated Press

Mikhail S. Gorbachev retired President Andrei A. Gromyko from the Politburo Friday and fired other old guard leaders in a Kremlin shake-up that trimmed the Communist Party bureaucracy and put some Gorbachev allies in key positions.

In less than an hour, an extraordinary meeting of the party’s policy-making Central Committee ordered reductions in the party’s Moscow-based staff and apparently demoted the Kremlin’s No. 2 man, Yegor K. Ligachev, to agriculture chief.

Ligachev, a Politburo member who earlier had been replaced as party chief for ideology, had widely been seen as a potential conservative rival to Gorbachev, Soviet leader since March, 1985, when he became the party’s general secretary.

The party’s top job in agriculture, once held by Gorbachev himself, is central to Gorbachev’s ambitious plan for economic reform, but carries far less prestige than the portfolio for ideology.


Solomentsev Retired

Vadim A. Medvedev, named a full Politburo member by the Central Committee, told a news conference later that the 300-member committee also retired Mikhail S. Solomentsev, 75, from the 12-member Politburo, in the most sweeping set of personnel changes since Gorbachev came to power.

Medvedev said the revamping could halve the size of the Central Committee staff, as Gorbachev pursues his drive to get the party out of the day-to-day running of government and the economy.

The meeting was called hastily, indicating that Gorbachev may have been trying to head off possible opposition to the changes. One Soviet official suggested that Gorbachev decided to act as soon as he mustered adequate backing.


“When the decision is made and the support is there, then why wait?” the official said. “There was no point in wasting time.”

Hand Strengthened

A senior Soviet political analyst said the changes clearly strengthen Gorbachev’s hand and will reduce tensions within the leadership.

“Now there will be less conflict and competition,” the analyst said. “Ligachev will have an important job, in agriculture, but will not control the party machinery.”

Both the official and the analyst spoke on condition of anonymity.

Gromyko’s retirement set the stage for the 79-year-old statesman’s removal as president during a special session of the Supreme Soviet legislature scheduled in the Kremlin this weekend.

‘President for Today’

“He is still the president for today,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov told reporters at the United Nations in New York. “But tomorrow the Supreme Soviet will be convened to decide (on the presidency).”


The retirement would clear the way for Gorbachev to seek election himself to a new, more powerful presidency he has advocated that would include responsibility for defense, foreign affairs and formation of the government.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said the United States will study the changes “and what they mean for the U.S.-Soviet relationship.”

“I would like to point out that our policy toward the Soviet Union is based on U.S. interests, not on personalities or who holds what position in Moscow,” she added.

Gromyko Lauded

At the meeting, Gorbachev lauded “the merits and achievements” of the dour-faced Gromyko, indicating that Gromyko was leaving in good standing. Gromyko served as Soviet foreign minister for 27 years before becoming president in July, 1985.

“I feel sad over the fact that my position within the Communist Party Central Committee has changed,” Gromyko told the meeting. “But age is a stubborn thing and there is no getting away from it.”

Gorbachev said: “Generally speaking, it has been a rich political life. Today when Andrei Gromyko is retiring I would like to thank him on behalf of my colleagues in the Political Bureau, and I hope the participants in the plenum think the same, for the good work and faithful service for the party and the state, and to wish him good health.”

The remarks by Gorbachev and Gromyko were reported by the official Tass news agency.


Others Lose Posts

Two alternate members of the Politburo also lost their posts: Vladimir I. Dolgikh and Pyotr N. Demichev.

Dolgikh, 63, and retiring Politburo member Solomentsev were considered experts in heavy industry, and their retirement may indicate dissatisfaction with efforts to increase efficiency in that key area of the economy.

Demichev, 70, has served as Soviet vice president.

Removal of those officials left only two pre-Gorbachev appointees on the Politburo: Vitaly I. Vorotnikov, chief of the Russian Republic, and Vladimir V. Shcherbitsky, head of the Ukraine. The ruling body dropped from 13 to 12 members.

One official brought to Moscow by Gorbachev, Anatoly F. Dobrynin, former ambassador to the United States, also retired as a secretary of the party Central Committee.