The Soviet minister of foreign trade, Nikolai Patolichev, has resigned from the post he has held since 1958, informed sources here said.
A spokeswoman at the Foreign Trade Ministry said an anouncement would appear in Saturday's newspapers. She would neither confirm nor deny the report.
Patolichev, 77, is yet another veteran high-level Soviet officeholder to bow out in recent months, following a pattern set since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev took office last March.
So far, approximately one dozen ministers -- out of the 64 Moscow-based all-union ministries -- have moved out of their jobs, in most cases to be replaced by men of a younger generation. Late last month, Nikolai Tikhonov, 80, who as premier headed the Council of Ministers, retired from his government job and last week was moved out of the ruling Politburo. Nikolai Baibakov, head of the powerful State Planning Committee, also retired from his job last week at age 74.
Viktor Fedorov, 73, the minister of the petroleum refining and petrochemical industry, has been replaced in his post after 20 years by his first deputy minister, Nikolai Lemayev, Reuter quoted Tass as reporting in Moscow today.
The rapid pace of the retirements shows the urgency with which Gorbachev is putting his stamp on the top government apparatus.
The personnel changes, building up to the 27th party congress in February, have been amplified by a new party program and a new five-year economic plan.
In September, the Soviet Union reported a nearly $3 billion trade deficit with the West for the first half of this year. For the same period, the Soviets reported a $2.4 billion shortfall in overall trade, largely attributable to the net decline in oil production.
Unofficial sources expect Patolichev to be replaced by Boris Aristov, a deputy minister of foreign affairs.