The Kremlin yesterday promoted two political veterans in its inner ruling circle, amid speculation that one of them may be named first deputy chairman of the Supreme Soviet - which is equivalent to vice president in the Soviet Union.
The Communist Party's policy-making Central Committee announced that Konstantin Chernyenkov, 66, and Vasili Kuznetsov, 76, were elected candidate members of the Politburo. Candidate members do not vote, but have important roles in shaping national policy and party politics. There are now 14 voting members of the Politburo, including Leonid Brezhnev as party chief, and eight candidate members, Washington Post correspondent Kevin Klose reported.
Chernyenkov, regarded by Western sources as a good administrator, has been a confidant of Brezhnev's since they worked together in Moldavia 30 years ago. Kuznetsov is an accomplished diplomat, fluent in English, with a master's degree from the Carnegie Institute of Technology.
The Supreme Soviet opens a four-day session Tuesday at which it is to adopt a new constitution and perhaps name a first deputy chairman. It is believed by Western observers that whoever is named to the post could be a strong contender to succeed Brezhnev, who at 70 is in uncertain health.