Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, walking slowly but smiling, began a goodwill visit to Hungary on Wednesday (30 May), showing he is still in command despite health problems.
Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, walking slowly but smiling, began a goodwill visit to Hungary on Wednesday (30 May), showing he is still in command despite health problems. The decision to take up a long-standing invitation from the Hungarian leaders was seen by diplomats as a major effort to dispel reports that he was seriously ill -- or that he might be too feeble to negotiate with President Carter at the Vienna Salt in about two weeks. Reuters reports that this visit is seen as a dress rehearsal for his Vienna trip.
SYNOPSIS: Mr. Brezhnev's arrival by plane apparently contradicts a widely-held belief that his doctor has ordered him not to fly. He seemed in complete control as he stepped down from the plane and was greeted by Hungary's communist Party leader, Janos Kadar, and other party officials. After inspecting a military guard of honour, he circled the tarmac to greet flag-waving groups. Standing with Mr. Kadar while national anthems were played and a twenty-one-gun salute rang out, his face was taunt and seemed strained and sometimes contorted to observers. Although the airport itself was festooned with welcoming banners and flags, there were only a few people gathered on the road leading into the city centre to greet the Russian leader.
Soviet officials dislike talking about his health, and say his lack of vigour is just part of the ageing process. On Wednesday he was not brisk, but seemed fitter and more alert than a recent appearances in Moscow.
The three-day visit is billed as informal and friendly, and Mr. Brezhnev's programme is a light one.