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Gorbachev and Ligachev Display Unity After Reports Of Fight With PM-Gorbachev-Shultz, Bjt

April 23, 1988

MOSCOW (AP) _ There had been reports Yegor K. Ligachev was demoted as the Kremlin’s No. 2 man for defiance in resisting Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s campaign for reform.

But Friday, the two chatted amiably during a ceremony at the Kremlin’s Palace of Congresses. The display of unity was witnessed by thousands inside the building and millions of television viewers.

Ligachev’s fate and relationship with Gorbachev have been subjects of gossip and debate in official and intellectual circles since a newspaper published a letter to the editor a month ago defending dictator Josef Stalin.

Ligachev, 67, is known to promote more restrained reform than Gorbachev’s plan for a restructuring Soviet society, so there was speculation he was behind the letter in Sovietskaya Rossiya.

It appeared in the name of a Leningrad teacher and was interpreted as a sign conservative opposition to Gorbachev was gaining strength.

Pravda later excoriated the pro-Stalin letter. The Communist Party daily made clear that the ″glasnost″ policy of more openness does not authorize opposition to ″perestroika,″ Gorbachev’s word for his reform program.

In Moscow, the newspaper exchange was seen as an allegory for the struggle between Gorbachev and Ligachev.

Some sources report that Gorbachev called a special meeting of the Politburo to reprimand Ligachev for opposing his reforms, and that his responsibility for ideology and party personnel were given to Alexander N. Yakovlev, a Politburo member who is a staunch Gorbachev ally.

Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze held a news conference Friday night and told reporters there were no serious disagreements in the leadership.

″Sometimes we differ but this is only an indication of the fact that our society is undergoing a process of democratization,″ he said. ″There is no sign of any conflict situation.″

Foreign Ministry spokesman Vadim Perfiliev was asked about the rumors earlier in the day and said ″there has been no change in the distribution of duties″ among party leaders.

Perfiliev appeared unsure of Ligachev’s status, however, and said he thought the No. 2 man was on a ″short vacation.″

When the Politburo filed into the Kremlin hall Friday to mark the 118th anniversary of Vladimir Lenin’s birth, Ligachev had the position accorded the chief ideologist and second-ranking leader: after Gorbachev, President Andrei A. Gromyko and Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov.

Several shots on television showed Ligachev and Gorbachev in animated conversation while non-voting Politburo member Georgy P. Razumovsky spoke for nearly an hour about perestroika’s merits.

Gorbachev and supporters of his reforms have acknowledged resistance at the highest levels but have not named their opponents.

Ligachev was elevated to the Politburo after Gorbachev, now 57, became Communist Party chief in March 1985.

His speeches have shown him to be more conservative than Gorbachev. He is reported to feel glasnost has gone too far in denouncing most economic and social policies of the past.

Ligachev was made a full Politburo member in April 1985, at the first Central Committee meeting under Gorbachev, without having served the customary term as a non-voting member.

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