Ailing Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko failed to attend tonight's traditional meeting at the Bolshoi Theater on the eve of International Women's Day.
It was Chernenko's second absence from what are usually regarded as obligatory events for a Soviet leader. On Feb. 22, Chernenko did not personally address voters from his electoral district, reportedly because of a "doctor's recommendation."
The Soviet leader, who is 73, has appeared on national television twice since then -- once when he voted in the Feb. 24 local elections and again three days later to accept his credentials as a deputy in the Russian Republic's parliament. On both occasions, he looked weak and drawn, and showed difficulty walking and speaking.
Chernenko, who suffers from a lung ailment, possibily emphysema, was out of public view from Dec. 27 until the televised appearance Feb. 24. During that period, Soviet officials described him alternately as ill or on winter holiday.
His appearance is expected, although not required, at the opening of the the Russian Republic's parliament, or Supreme Soviet, later this month.
The attendance of the leader is considered necessary at the spring plenum of the Communist Party's Central Committee, expected to be in April.