TURKMENISTAN SAYS IT CAN SATISFY ALL NATURAL GAS CONSUMERS. At the opening of the fourth Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan exhibition in Ashgabat on 10 March, Turkmen Minister of Oil, Gas, and Mineral Resources Rejepbai Arazov said the country's gas industry is able to produce as much as 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Arazov said once new fields are open, that figure will rise to 100 billion cubic meters annually. He noted that this year Turkmenistan will ship 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Ukraine and 4 billion cubic meters to Iran. But Arazov added that Iran is not prepared to pay for all those supplies, in which case deliveries may be smaller. The Turkmen minister said his country "can provide consumers with any amount of natural gas required. The question is whether they have the money to pay for it." BP

UKRAINE PLEDGES 'BREAKTHROUGH' IN FIGHTING CRIME. National Bureau of Investigations head Vasyl Durdynets has promised President Leonid Kuchma that 1999 will be a "breakthrough year" in fighting organized crime in Ukraine, Ukrainian Television reported on 11 March. According to Durdynets, some 200 criminal groups are currently active in Ukraine, controlling nearly 12,000 firms. He said that more than 2.5 million crimes have been registered in the country since 1995 but that the crime rate decreased by 10 percent last year. Kuchma said that while law enforcement bodies have managed to "stabilize" the crime situation, the number of economic crimes in Ukraine is increasing. He pledged to fight crime and corruption without making exceptions for "untouchables." Some commentators suggest that Kuchma's current anti-corruption drive is primarily motivated by his bid for re-election in the 31 October elections. JM

UKRAINE'S BUDGET FALLS SHORT OF TARGET REVENUES IN FEBRUARY. The State Tax Administration on 10 March reported that budget revenues in February fell short of target by 2 billion hryvni ($583 million). Moreover, those revenues in January were some 10 percent below targets. Total revenues for 1999 were planned at 34.2 billion hryvni, but the Finance Ministry said last month that the figure will likely be down by 2 billion hryvni. JM

CHORNOBYL TO CLOSE ONLY AFTER WESTERN HELP. Presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said on 10 March that Ukraine will keep its promise to close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by 2000 "on condition that there is enough financial assistance," Reuters reported. Ukraine promised the G-7 to shut down Chornobyl in exchange for financial aid to finish building two replacement reactors. According to expert estimates, completing the reactors may cost $1.2 billion. JM

LITHUANIA'S IGNALINA PLANT WILL BE Y2K-FREE, SAYS OFFICIAL. Martynas Bieliunas, the government's chief operational official for dealing with the so-called millennium bug, told Reuters on 10 March that the computers that run Lithuania's Soviet-built Ignalina nuclear reactor will be secure at the turn of the new century. He added that 80 percent of the country's state or state-controlled institutions are now millenniumcompliant. Some experts believe that Soviet-built
nuclear power plants may be more immune to the millennium bug than Western facilities as many of their systems are still analogue, but Ignalina--which was modernized following the Chornobyl disaster--is seen as "somewhere between the two," according to the news agency. JC