East European sources here say they have been told Andrei Kirilenko - once considered a prime candidate to succeed Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev - will soon retire from the ruling Politburo.
Foreign and Soviet analysts presume the most likely candidate to replace him would be Vladimir Dolgikh. A specialist in industrial affairs, Mr. Dolgikh is younger than all but one of the current Politburo members. He was elevated to candidate, or nonvoting, Politburo membership in May.
The East European sources say Soviet officials have told them that Mr. Kirilenko, who was reported ill earlier in the year, would retire for reasons of health with the next regular meeting of the party Central Committee, expected in mid-November. However, no senior official was immediately available for comment on the report.
Mr. Kirilenko lost a good share of his former power within the party hierarchy during his earlier illness. By this summer, two men - longtime Brezhnev aide Konstantin Chernenko and former KGB chief Yuri Andropov - emerged as the most influential Brezhnev colleagues in the day-to-day running of the Soviet policy machine.
Later in the summer, Mr. Kirilenko was back on the job, but it was by then doubtful whether he would fully reclaim his onetime power.