The former president of the Soviet trade unions, Alexei Shibayev, has been severely reprimanded for illegal financial dealings that involved a number of other high officials, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda reported.
One of the charges against Shibayev, 68, was that he diverted state funds for the construction of his personal villa in Abhaziya on the Black Sea.
Soviet Minister of Energy and Electrification Pyotr Neporozni and several top officials in the Saratov Oblast (region) were also reprimanded in connection with the Shibayev affair.
In another episode of the current anticorruption drive, about 300 high officials in Soviet Georgia were removed from their posts. Pravda said 48 of them had been involved in "gross misuse" of their positions for personal gain, including the republic's ministers of trade, finance and industry. Criminal proceedings are being prepared against some of them, it added.
Shibayev, a member of the party Central Committee since 1961 and a longtime ally of the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, was unexpectedly dismissed from his union post a year ago. Apparently protected by Brezhnev, he was appointed deputy minister of machine tools and automation equipment, the post he still holds.
Well-informed sources said Shibayev has already been ousted from the Central Committee and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the collective state presidency. Before being appointed in 1976 to run the official unions, which have 127 million members, Shibayev served as the first Communist Party secretary of the Saratov region. Neporozni, a Central Committee member since 1971, was also regarded as a protege of Brezhnev.
Other senior officials closely linked with Brezhnev are currently subjected to investigations on corruption charges. They include Gen. Nikolai Shcholokov, 72, who served for 16 years as minister of interior until he was removed last December, and Sergei Medunov, 68, the former first secretary of the Krasnodarsk region. Both are members of the Central Committee, although their tenure on that policy-making body was expected to be terminated at its next session, due June 14-15.
Medunov, who was reported to have been involved in blatant cases of corruption, was said to have been protected by Brezhnev, who named him deputy minister of fruit and vegetables.
It is believed that a number of Central Committee members may be purged from that body in June, allowing the new Soviet leader, Yuri Andropov, to bring in fresh blood.
In an unrelated development, Politburo member Konstantin Chernenko, Brezhnev's closest political associate, appeared in public today after a two-month absence. Moscow radio said Chernenko was among members of the leadership when they lined up to pay respects to Arvid Pelshe, the Politburo member who died Sunday at 84.
Chernenko was the chief rival of Andropov for the party leadership following Brezhnev's death last November. His long absence from public view had prompted speculation that he was in serious political difficulties.