• Short Summary

    Nikolai Podgorny, the President of the Soviet Union, has been relieved of his duties as a member of the Politburo, the inner cabinet of the Soviet Communist Party.

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    Nikolai Podgorny, the President of the Soviet Union, has been relieved of his duties as a member of the Politburo, the inner cabinet of the Soviet Communist Party. This was announced today (24 May) by Moscow Radio after a plenary meeting of the party's central committee. No explanation was given. The decision has no immediate effect on his position as Had of State, which he holds as President of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.

    The announcement that Mr. Podgorny had been dropped from the Politburo took Moscow, and Soviet diplomats abroad, by surprise. A Soviet representative at the United Nations, who heard about it for the first time from a reporter, said it could be because of his age.

    SYNOPSIS: Nikolai Podgorny has been President of the Soviet Union for ore than 11 years. He is now 74. He comes from the Ukraine, like the late Nikita Khrushchev, whom many people think he resembles in appearance. He was voting in elections for the Supreme Soviet in 1971.

    On December 9th, 1965 the Supreme Soviet confirmed him in office as President of the Presidium. He is an engineer by training, and had risen through the Ukrainian and Central Communist Parties.

    In 1967, he paid a private call on the Pope -- the first time a Communist Head of State had been received at the Vatican. They were reported to have discussed world peace and the position of Catholics in the Soviet Union.

    A visit to Egypt, in 1971 -- for the inauguration of the Aswan High Dam. He had been there before, in an effort to restore Soviet prestige after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

    The dam had been built with Soviet financial and technical help. Mr. Podgorny and President Sadat of Egypt also signed a treaty of friendship.

    Later the same year, he was in Hanoi, seeking to counter Chinese influence by emphasising the contribution the Soviet Union was making to the North Vietnamese war effort. President Podgorny was showing that he was no figure-head, and his visits no mere formality.

    Of course, he paid courtesy visits too. Seated between Madame Ceausescu of Rumania and the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, he enjoyed the banquet marking 25 centuries of the Persian Empire.

    And occasions of solemn ceremonial. Mr. Podgorny headed the Warsaw Pact leaders who gathered in Berlin to pay their last respects to the East German leader, Walter Ulbricht. Under Herr Ulbricht, East Germany had been a close ally of the Soviet Union for more than 20 years.

    At home, he has been part of a three-man team: with Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin and Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev.

    They were all present for talks with the Shah of Iran in Moscow in 1974; and discussed mainly economic matters, particularly the supply of Iran's natural gas.

    A year later, his guest was General Francisco da Costa Gomes, then President of Portugal. The two Presidents signed agreements promising co-operation in the political, economic and scientific fields. At that time, in 1975, the Portuguese government was moving more closely towards Communism than it is today, after the general elections of last year returned a Socialist government to power.

    Two months ago, President Podgorny set out from Moscow on a tour of southern Africa. It was to take him to Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique -- all countries which have directly concerned themselves with the struggle of the black nationalist movements in Rhodesia. In Zambia, he met the nationalist leaders and promised them continued Soviet support in their fight against white minority rule. He spoke repeatedly of Soviet solidarity with all those who were struggling against colonial oppression. The tour began in Tanzania, with Mr. Podgorny's formal meeting with President Nyerere --- and also ended there, with a private visit to a game park.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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