UKRAINE TO INVESTIGATE SFOR CHARGES. Kyiv has dispatched two senior military officers to investigate charges by the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia that seven Ukrainian soldiers were involved in smuggling activities, Ukrainian media reported on 3 November. But the Ukrainian defense minister repeated Kyiv's insistence that charges against the seven are unjustified. pg

UKRAINIAN, BULGARIAN BUSINESSES SEEK END TO BORDER CORRUPTION. Chambers of commerce and industry in Ukraine and Bulgaria have called on their governments to end extortion among border officials in order to improve trade between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. Because of racketeering at the border, trade between the two countries has fallen from $270 million in the first nine months of 1996 to $200 million in the same period this year. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian State Statistical Committee reported that the rate of decline in Ukraine's GDP has slowed during the past year. pg

GAZPROM OPTS FOR UNDERSEA PIPELINE TO TURKEY. Gazprom board chairman Rem Vyakhirev on 3 November announced his company has finally decided on the trans-Black Sea route for its new gas export pipeline to Turkey, ITAR-TASS reported. Vyakhirev said alternative routes running west through Ukraine, Moldova and Romania or east through Georgia and Armenia were rejected because of "instability and high political risk" in the Balkans and North Caucasus. The underwater route is, however, the most expensive and technically most demanding option (see "End Note", "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1997) Two companies from Italy and The Netherlands will bid for the contract to build the 396 kilometer underwater section of the pipeline. Vyakhirev also announced that Gazprom is about to sign an agreement with a consortium of Russian and foreign banks for a $3 billion loan, according to Interfax. lf