The Soviet Communist Party chief, Leonid Brezhnev, was absent on Wednesday (14 December) when the Supreme Soviet, Russia's Parliament, met to approve economic plans for next year.
The Soviet Communist Party chief, Leonid Brezhnev, was absent on Wednesday (14 December) when the Supreme Soviet, Russia's Parliament, met to approve economic plans for next year. The Supreme Soviet meets only twice a year and it is normal for Mr Brezhnev to attend. Reuters news agency said his non-appearance had renewed speculation about his health, although Mr Brezhnev was reported to have made a long speech to the party's policy-making central committee the day before. The Soviet leader, who has been Communist Party chief since 1964, is 71 on December 19.
SYNOPSIS: According to Reuters, Mr Brezhnev's absence from the ranks of those attending the opening of the winter session was especially strange since only last June, he had been elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet's permanent presidium.
This would have been his first full regular session in the post and given him spacial place in the chamber as the Soviet equivalent of the country's president. The 1,500 members of the Soviet however, ignored Mr Brezhnev's absence, welcoming the other senior party officials in the usual way.
The assembly then went on to vote on the appointment of three new members to the presidium. All three were approved unanimously, raising the membership to 21.
Vasily Garbuzov, the Finance Minister, led off the economic discussion by announcing that the Soviet Union would hold its defence spending to this year's levels.
The chief of the state planning committee, Nikolai Baibakov, followed with details of what observers saw as exceptionally modest economic targets for 1978. He said industrial production would rise by 4.5 per cent next year, compared to the 5.8 projected for 1977.
The Supreme Soviet session ran for three days and finished on Friday (16 December).