KASYANOV PONDERS POSSIBLE PIPELINE WITH SLOVAK MINISTER. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Slovak Economics Minister Lubomir Harach met in Moscow on 6 September to discuss, among other things, the possibility of constructing a gas pipeline from Russia that would transit Poland and Slovakia, thereby by-passing Ukraine, Interfax reported. Russia has accused Ukraine of illegally siphoning off Russian gas transiting its territory and has claimed that as a result of that activity, Gazprom has sustained losses totaling $111 million as of 1 August, according to Interfax on 4 September. JC

UKRAINAN PARLIAMENT FACES LABORIOUS SESSION. Speaker Ivan Plyushch, opening the fall parliamentary session on 5 September, told deputies that the session's agenda includes more than 350 issues. Plyushch noted that the most important task is to amend the constitution in line with the 16 April referendum. He added that other priority issues are the adoption of a 2001 budget and consideration of the Criminal, Customs, Tax, Budget, and Land Codes. The parliamentary group Sobornist asked the deputies to include on the agenda the issue of impeaching President Leonid Kuchma. The group claims to have evidence that former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko transferred "large sums in hard currency to Kuchma's personal accounts or accounts controlled by him," Interfax reported. JM

UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST COSTLY LIBEL RULINGS. Ukrainian journalists have launched a protest campaign against what they see as media harassment in the form of very high libel settlements, Interfax and AP reported on 5 September. Courts have been flooded by libel claims from officials, private citizens, and organizations seeking huge settlements that journalists say are often used as political tools to silence criticism. Journalists are planning to travel in horsedrawn carts across Ukrainian regions and build a "Freedom Town" in front of the parliamentary building in Kyiv within the framework of their protest campaign. The parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech has proposed a bill that would limit libel settlements to 2,550 hryvni ($468). JM