Soviet Union: Rumors of a Rift

Telex machines in newsrooms the world over last week tapped out a sensational story. Under a Vienna dateline, Reuters reported that a power struggle had broken out within the Kremlin. Citing sources in Belgrade and Prague, the article said that three Politburo members—Ideologue Mikhail Suslov, Trade Union Leader Alexander Shelepin and First Deputy Premier Kirill Mazurov —had taken the extreme step of writing a letter that blamed Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin for failures in the Soviet economy.

After two days of silence, the Soviet government denied that such a letter existed. Government spokesmen refused to honor the...

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