MOSCOW — Vyacheslav M. Molotov, one of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's closest henchmen and the chief negotiator of the Soviet nonaggression pact with Hitler's Nazi Germany, has died, Tass reported today. He was 96.
The official Tass press agency said Molotov died Saturday after a long illness.
Molotov sought to succeed Stalin as the leader of the Soviet Union but lost out to Nikita S. Khrushchev after Stalin's death in 1953.
For 30 years, Molotov represented Moscow to the outside world as premier, foreign minister and envoy.
In 1962, Khrushchev stripped him of his membership in the Communist Party as part of a de-Stalinization campaign. That membership was quietly restored in 1984.
From the 1920s and into the early 1950s Molotov served as Stalin's confidant, chief of staff, drinking buddy, whipping boy and assistant executioner during a series of bloody purges.