TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE FAIL TO SETTLE GAS DEBTS. Talks between President Saparmurat Niyazov and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Holubchenko in Ashgabat have failed to yield an agreement on how Kyiv should pay its estimated $704 million debt for Turkmen gas supplied in 1996-1997, Interfax reported on 1 October. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had proposed that Kyiv would supply commodities to cover part of that debt. Nor was agreement reached on several proposed bilateral construction projects, including a bridge across the Amu-Darya River in eastern Turkmenistan and the reconstruction of compressor stations. LF

UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK RESTRICTS FOREIGN CURRENCY PURCHASES. In a bid to stave off the depletion of its reserves, the Ukrainian National Bank (NBU) has sharply tightened procedures for purchasing foreign currency, Ukrainian News reported on 1 October. The new rules stipulate that foreign currency can be purchased by authorized banks only if their customers produce the required documentation, which includes foreign trade contracts and tax and customs clearance. Banks are obliged to provide the State Tax Administration with information about customers wanting to buy foreign currency, including passport details of customers' employers and accountants. Permits for purchasing foreign currency are to be issued by NBU regional departments. "The situation is deadly: the country's trade turnover will practically be paralyzed," the agency quoted one banker as saying. JM