AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE DISCUSS OIL EXPORT. Azerbaijani First Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 24 September in Kyiv to discuss the prospects for exporting some of Azerbaijan's oil by tanker from the Georgian port of Supsa to Odessa and then via a pipeline to Brody in western Ukraine, AP reported. Ukrainian officials maintain that this is the shortest and cheapest route for transporting Caspian oil to Europe. Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Holubchenko said completion of the half-built pipeline will cost approximately $400 million and take some two years. The cost of the BakuCeyhan pipeline is estimated at $3 billion. LF

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT CREATES STATE BROADCASTING GIANT... In accordance with a recent presidential edict, the Ukrainian government on 24 September announced the establishment of Ukrainian Television and Radio Broadcasting, a state shareholding company that will unite state-run broadcast media, AP reported. Several national television channels and radio stations as well as 27 regional state-run television and radio companies that are not subject to privatization will be united in the new entity. The cabinet appointed Mykola Knyazhytskyy as the company's board chairman. Information Minister Zynoviy Kulyk said the government is currently able to finance only some 20 percent of broadcasters' needs. "It is entirely possible that we shall cut the national radio broadcasts, for instance, from 22 hours a day to seven or eight hours," the agency quoted him as saying. JM

...TRIES TO CALM PUBLIC FEAR OF FINANCIAL COLLAPSE. Ukraine's regional government leaders agreed on 24 September to launch a nationwide information campaign to restore confidence in the national currency, AP reported. In the wake of the Russian crisis, the Ukrainian hryvnya has fallen from 2.1 to $1 in mid-August to $3.25 to $1 on 24 September. Official estimates put the inflation rate in September at 7.5 percent, up from 0.2 percent last month. Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko told regional leaders that "psychological factors" have played a "most significant role" in Ukraine's current economic slump. National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko added that panic among the population is the only obstacle to stabilizing the hryvnya and curbing inflation. JM

UKRAINIAN PENSIONERS TRADE UNPAID PENSIONS FOR FOOD. Authorities in 14 towns in Kharkiv Oblast have organized fairs at which local pensioners can obtain food as compensation for pension arrears, the daily "Fakty" reported on 24 September. Some 3,000 people in the town of Valky are able to choose among pork, beef, milk, sugar, and other foodstuffs provided by enterprises that owe money to the State Pension Fund. Despite the government's repeated attempts to crack down on debtor enterprises, the total debt to the fund remains virtually unchanged, at some $3 billion hryvni ($900 million). JM