PARIS, DEC. 3 -- Yegor Ligachev, the second-ranking Soviet leader, said today that despite reports of disagreement, he and Mikhail Gorbachev are "on the same wavelength" concerning the need for far-reaching reforms in the Soviet Union.

Ligachev, in a rare interview with the Paris newspaper Le Monde, published on the eve of Gorbachev's visit to Washington, appeared to go out of his way to convey an impression that the top Soviet leader is supported by a united front on domestic issues back in Moscow.

"I know what you write about me," he said, apparently referring to reports that he has questioned the pace of some of Gorbachev's reforms. "And then I want to make this remark: With Gorbachev we work in a very friendly way. I beg you to understand this and to let it be known that there is no difference between Gorbachev and Ligachev, that they are on the same wavelength."

Ligachev, visiting Paris for the French Communist Party's 26th congress, personally put into practice Gorbachev's new policy of glasnost, or openness. In addition to smiling for traditional photos with French leaders, Ligachev granted an interview to the conservative newspaper Le Figaro and scheduled a news conference for Friday, a Soviet diplomat said.

Ligachev, a secretary of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee and a member of the Politburo presided over by Gorbachev, has been described as a conservative in party affairs. He told Le Monde that Boris Yeltsin was removed as the party's Moscow leader recently not to appease opponents of swift change, as suggested by some analysts, but rather because he "was not up to his responsibilities" in the way he was carrying out the reforms.

"Politics is part of an exercise distinguished by a sense of responsibility, an exercise that requires being handled exactly in that way," Ligachev said.

"Anyway, he was criticized for, among other things, his attempts to solve problems by a shuffle of executives. As I have already said, this method is not ours. At present, Comrade Yeltsin is {a} minister of the U.S.S.R. He works on construction questions."

Ligachev, who dealt exclusively with domestic Soviet affairs in the interview, said Gorbachev's policy of perestroika, or restructuring, represents "the most important stage in the development of the country after the October" 1917 revolution. Denying a suggestion that he opposes glasnost, Ligachev defined Gorbachev's dual reform policy as "democratization plus economic reform, or, still more briefly, it is a better intellectual and economic life for Soviets."

"According to our Marxist-Leninist theory, it is impossible to make the economy progress without democratization, and democracy without glasnost is a joke," he added.

At the same time, Ligachev made it clear that glasnost, in his definition, includes some limits. For example, an Oct. 21 speech by Yeltsin, considered by analysts as the key factor in his downfall, will not be published, Ligachev said.

According to reports in Paris, the Oct. 21 speech incensed some Communist Party leaders because Yeltsin complained caustically that even through frequent changes of executives he was unable to find capable people to carry out reforms efficiently and intelligently. His comments were considered a challenge to the overall quality of party personnel, the reports said.

Against that background, Ligachev acknowledged "a natural process {of} replacing people" since Gorbachev began carrying out his reforms.

"But we put the accent principally on education of executives, so as to help each and every one carry out his responsibilities as well as possible," he added. "We consider as our important success the fact that the party has formed a large reserve of competent people, highly qualified, devoted to our cause."

Ligachev also said the Soviet leadership is in agreement that criticism of mistakes in Soviet society, while it can stimulate improvements, must not be allowed to degenerate and become "a goal in itself."

"The objective of criticism, as we understand it, consists in finding ways that permit correction of existing flaws, acceleration of forward progress," he said. "In other words, criticism must be constructive."

Reminded that he had criticized such Soviet newspapers as Ogonyok and the Moscow News, publications that have sought to push glasnost as far as possible, Ligachev responded that if the press can criticize everybody, "why could one not criticize the press?"

"Everyone must be able to be criticized," he added, "for criticism is not a refusal of confidence. We have criticized the Moscow News and Ogonyok, but the editors are still in place and their work has improved."

On the reexamination of Soviet history, however, Ligachev declared that historical truth is the only limit to eliminating "lacunae," or gaps, in the way history has been presented in the Soviet Union. This is a particularly sensitive issue in light of recent articles that have been allowed to detail and attack abuses committed in the years of Joseph Stalin's dictatorship.

To "reestablish truth in its totality -- I repeat, in its totality -- is indispensable for us in order to draw lessons for the future," he said, adding later: "Restructuring is a lesson of truth. But the truth about today cannot be complete without the truth about yesterday."