GOVERNMENT ASKS FUEL PRODUCERS TO QUIT SMUGGLING. As fuel shortages threaten to paralyze harvesting, fire-fighting, and other activities across the country (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 July 1999), federal government officials have decided against increasing the export tax on oil and have instead asked oil companies and refineries to ensure sufficient supplies of gasoline to retailers. One reason for this decision may be that the sharp increase in the production and export of "unregistered" gasoline. According to "Vremya MN" on 29 July, economist Mikhail Delyagin concluded that since gasoline output sank by 17 percent in April and 12 percent in March, according to official figures, for no apparent reason, it is likely being secretly transported across Russian borders to avoid customs and tax duties. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told reporters the same day that gasoline is being smuggled to Ukraine and other places, where it fetches $2 a liter compared with $0.20 in Russia. JAC

RUSSIA PROPOSES BARTER ARRANGEMENT FOR INDIA TO REPAY DEBT. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, speaking to the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi on 29 July, proposed that India pay off its Soviet-era $14 billion debt by setting up joint ventures with Russia to manufacture and modernize civilian aircraft. He added that discussions have already been held on how such ventures might be created, AFP reported. Ukraine has proposed repaying part of its gas debt to Russia with 10 strategic bombers, while Moscow recently suggested barter trade with the Association of South East Asian States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 July 1999). Also on 29 July, Khristenko met with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who approved the proposal that trade between the two countries be increased fourfold by 2005. The current volume of bilateral trade stands at $1.5 billion, ITAR-TASS reported. JC

TWO MORE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS REGISTERED. The Central Electoral Commission has registered two more candidates to vie for the Ukrainian presidency, bringing the total so far to eight. The new candidates are Natalya Vitrenko, chairwoman of the Progressive Socialist Party, and former Environmental Minister Yuriy Kostenko, leader of one of the two splinter groups of the Rukh party. JM

ROMANIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES IMF. In an interview with Reuters on 29 July, Radu Vasile accused the IMF of using "double standards" and of constantly imposing new conditions on Romania for the resumption of lending. Vasile said Romania is being treated differently from Russia or Ukraine and has been "put in the same basket with Pakistan." He said he is ready to lead the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic into the next elections only if he is elected chairman of the party, noting that he is also willing to form a coalition with leftist parties. The electorate has turned to those parties, he commented, because it is disillusioned with other formations. Bickering among the coalition partners has made matters worse, according to Vasile. MS