MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev oversaw the firing of the last major Brezhnev-era holdover today as Ukrainian Communist leaders removed hard-line party boss Vladimir Shcherbitsky and ended his 17 years of iron rule in the southern republic.
The Ukrainian Communist Party's Central Committee chose Vladimir Ivashko to replace Shcherbitsky as first secretary of the republic's party apparatus, Tass press agency said.
Shcherbitsky, 71, was retired from the ruling Communist Party Politburo on Sept. 20 in a move that cemented Gorbachev's hold on the party, and Shcherbitsky's removal as Ukrainian party chief had been widely expected.
Other than Gorbachev himself, he was the last Politburo member from the days of now-discredited former President Leonid I. Brezhnev and was widely regarded as one of the most conservative forces on the Politburo.
Ivashko, the No. 2 Ukrainian party leader, was pitted in a secret ballot against another party official, Stanislav Gurenko, Tass said. It did not say what the vote total was, but it said Ivashko received solid support from Ukrainian regional party chiefs who participated in the balloting.
Backer of Reforms
Analysts say that Gorbachev probably has been a patron of Ivashko's for some time and that his writings indicate he is a firm backer of the Soviet leader's reforms.
Gorbachev's decision to participate personally in the meeting showed the significance he attached to making the change. The party's general secretary would not ordinarily be present for the changing of a republic party chief.
Two years ago Gorbachev went to a Moscow city party committee meeting to fire maverick Boris Yeltsin, and he traveled to Leningrad in July to retire that city's party chief, Yuri F. Solovyev, who had been defeated when he ran unopposed for a seat in the new national Parliament.
Ukrainian reformers blame Shcherbitsky for squelching dissent and holding back Gorbachev's economic reforms in the nation's breadbasket.