Testing time for Andropov ex-rival

A June session of the Soviet Communist Central Committee may signal how much a recent illness has affected the political standing of a one-time rival to Kremlin chief Yuri Andropov.

The man in question is Konstantin U. Chernenko, a longtime protege of the late Leonid Brezhnev. Mr. Chernenko was once considered a prime contender for Mr. Brezhnev's mantle, Monitor correspondent Ned Temko writes.

Mr. Chernenko reappeared in public Wednesday after a lengthy absence due to illness, senior Soviet sources said.

Now, a ranking official has told a foreign diplomat here that, ''health permitting,'' Mr. Chernenko is slated to make a major speech on ideology at the next session of the Communist Party Central Committee, due in mid-June.

If so, this would seem a signal that Mr. Chernenko's political standing remains stable. Since shortly after Mr. Brezhnev's passing, Chernenko has handled the traditionally important ideology portfolio on the Central Committee's inner Secretariat.

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