The Soviet leadership's chief ideologist has arrived for talks in Warsaw amid signs of growing reformist pressure from within the beleaguered Polish Communist Party there.
The previously unannounced visit by Mikhail Suslov, the first Soviet Politburo member to visit Poland since the crisis there erupted last year, comes days before a planned meeting of the Polish Communist leadership.
That session, now delayed by the hardliners until April 29, is to lay the groundwork for an extraordinary party congress which is to convene by late July.
The official Soviet party newspaper Pravda warned earlier this month that some Polish Communists were pushing "alien" ideas, and that such "deviancy" played into the hands of forces opposing Polish socialism.
Days later in the Polish town of Torun, a meeting of grass-roots party members leveled unprecedented attacks on Warsaw hardliners and called for party reform.
The Soviet news agency said the Poles had invited Mr. Suslov for a "friendly visit."
Diplomats here said it was safe to assume the two sides would do more than smile at each other. Western analysts suggested that by Suslov's visit, the Kremlin was forcefully weighing in against excessive Polish party reform and might also have some sharp words to say about the Warsaw leadership's latest major concession to reformist pressure: recognition of Rural Solidarity, an independent farmers' union.
There has also been speculation in Western diplomatic circles that the Soviets might urge postponement of the full Polish Communist congress, widely expected to cement a liberalization of the party and perhaps push aside more hard-line officials.
Some East European sources said recently Soviet officials still seem to hold out hope that the congress can take place before the eruption of another major new crisis in Poland.
Eric Bourne reports from Warsaw:
Suslov's arrival is without doubt connected with the postponement of the central committee plenum.
A first reaction among observers here is that the septuagenarian who has fathered Soviet ideology since Stalin's time is here -- as one put it -- "for talks, not action."
Almost certainly the postponement of the Poles' weekend meeting is linked with a Russian desire for further consultation.
This is implicit also in new Soviet bloc criticisms in the last 24 hours -- with the East Germans complaining bitterly of the recent Torun meeting calling for reduced powers for the Polish Politburo and central committee and the Hungarian media assailing Solidarity for alleged ambitions to creat e a political movement rivaling the party.