UKRAINIAN PREMIER PROPOSES INTERNATIONAL JOINT VENTURE TO OPERATE GAS PIPELINES... Viktor Yushchenko said in a 16 August interview with the Moscow-based "Trud" that Ukraine could hand over control of its gas transit pipelines to an international joint venture on conditions of a long-term concession. According to Yushchenko, the joint venture could be created by Naftohaz Ukrayiny, Russia's Gazprom, and another foreign oil and gas company. He said Gazprom would participate in the joint venture in exchange for writing off Ukraine's gas debt to Russia and for "investing other assets." JM

...DENIES HIS CABINET AUTHORIZED GAS THEFT. Yushchenko said the same day that his cabinet made no decision to allow the siphoning off of Russian gas transiting Ukrainian territory. Yushchenko was commenting on reports in some Russian media saying that he had authorized the theft of Russian gas and on a statement by Dmitrii Rogozin, head of the Russian Duma Committee for International Affairs. Rogozin said on 15 August that Russia may sue Ukraine in an international court for the continued theft of Russian transit gas, according to ITAR-TASS. JM

UKRAINIAN EX-PREMIER CRITICIZES CABINET POLICIES. Valeriy Pustovoytenko has criticized the cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko for its agricultural and energy policies as well as for poor cooperation with the IMF, Interfax reported on 16 August. Pustovoytenko said the recently announced government program to boost grain production in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000) is aimed at diverting public attention from the poor harvest this year. According to Pustovoytenko, this year's grain output will be "much lower" than last year's. He also slammed Yushchenko for not supporting the coal industry and for proposing to hand over part of the country's pipeline system to Russia as repayment of gas debts. Pustovoytenko noted that the current government "has totally wrecked" Ukraine's cooperation with international financial institution, particularly the IMF. "There were hopes that following Viktor Yushchenko's appointment [as prime minister] we would easily obtain IMF credits, but [the IMF] has nagged about irregularities that took place earlier," Pustovoytenko said. JM