MOSCOW -- Nikita Khrushchev was "released" Thursday from his jobs as Soviet premier and first secretary of the Soviet Communist party.
The officials Soviet Tass news agency said First Deputy Premier Leonid Brezhnev has been elected first secretary of the Soviet Communist party Central Committee.
It added that Alexei Kosygin has been appointed chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier.
The official version confirmed reports that had been making the rounds in Moscow for several hours.
Khrushchev was 70 last April 17.
He has been premier of the Soviet Union since March 27, 1958.
The reports said Khrushchev was relieved of his twin posts at a party Central Committee meeting Wednesday. According to the reports, an official announcement of the changes was expected soon.
Khrushchev had been reported in hot water with some elements of the Communist party because of his policy of peaceful co-existance, repeated failures of Soviet agriculture, and the split with the Communist Chinese party. His backdown in the Cuban missile crisis also may have damaged his prestige at home.
He had succeeded Josef Stalin as first secretary of the Communist party, the position of real power in the Soviet Union. He took over the premiership after a Central Committee battle, replacing N. A. Bulganin.
According to the reports, the motion for Khrushchev's retirement was made by chief party ideologist Mikhail A. Suslov.
The sources said this would suggest the likelihood the change had overtones of ideological conflict.
However, the sources said the Khrushchev retirement was voted by the Central Committee more in sorrow than in anger.
They simply felt the premier -- despite the energy he was publicly displayed in travels this year -- was growing too old to hold the reins of power, the sources said.
Khrushchev has not been seen by a westerner for two days. That westerner was French Science Minister Gaston Palewski, who visited Khrushchev Tuesday.
It was a delighted Khrushchev who told Palewski he had to rush off to greet the three shoeless cosmonauts who rode the world's first passenger space ship on a one day wonder journey.
Since then nothing.
In recent months Khrushchev has been deep in a running battle with the Chinese Communists for world leadership of the Communist movement.
He had called a meeting of 25 of the world Communist parties to be held in Moscow on Dec. 15. But informed sources said that only about two thirds of those invited had sent in their acceptance. The December meeting was thought to have been called to draft a formal severance of Soviet Communist ties with the Peking branch of the party.
In his recent public arguments with the Chinese, Khrushchev actually had appeared to be learning closer to the West on some issues, warning that there would be no profit for either side in a nuclear war. As a result, the Chinese had accused him of being too soft on capitalism.
In New York stock prices plunged sharply in active trading over the noon hour as a result of the unconfirmed reports of Kremlin changes. Some prices fell as much as $7 a share, but the average was $2.
Reports of a developing crisis in Moscow took official Washington by surprise.
Of immediate concern in the West over the replacement of Khrushchev would be whether the change would result in a hardening of the Soviet attitude toward the West.
Brezhnev would be the real leader under the reported shakeup since he would head the Communist party. Only last July he was shifted from the Soviet presidency to first deputy secretary of the party. As secretary of the party he would control the appointments to key jobs in the Soviet government.
Khrushchev's closest brush with Nebraska came in September, 1959, during his American tour when he visited Iowa farmer Roswell Garst at his farm in Coon Rapids, Ia.
Khrushchev flew over Nebraska during his American tour in September, 1959, when en route from San Francisco to Des Moines, Ia.