AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Visiting Kyiv on 10-11 October, Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Safar Abiev signed a defense cooperation agreement for 2001 with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Kuzmuk, AP reported. That agreement includes policy cooperation, bilateral cooperation within the NATO Partnership for Peace program, and cooperation within the GUUAM alignment, which is composed of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova. The two ministers told journalists on 11 October that the GUUAM member states intend to form a joint military sub-division that will participate in peacekeeping operations and protect the planned Caucasus transport corridor, including the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Turan reported. Abiev also met on 11 October with Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yushchenko, who pledged that his cabinet will seek ways of promoting joint training and data-exchange programs, Interfax reported. LF

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT 'CATEGORICALLY' BANS STEALING OF RUSSIAN GAS. Leonid Kuchma has "categorically" banned the siphoning off of Russian gas in transit via Ukrainian territory, Interfax reported on 11 October. The presidential press service said Kuchma gave the necessary instructions to Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and managers of the oil and gas sector, but it did not elaborate. Kuchma said earlier that so far this year Ukraine stole 13 billion cubic meters of Russian gas worth $700 million. Ukraine also acknowledged that it siphoned off $1.4 billion worth of Russian gas in 1999. Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov commented that Ukraine has not stolen Russian gas since May but added that at the beginning of the fall-winter season "some may wish to do so again," according to the 12 October "Eastern Economist Daily." JM

ITERA CUTS GAS SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE. The Itera company has cut gas supplies to Ukraine from 30 million cubic meters to 4.8 million cubic meters a day, Interfax reported on 11 October. A representative of Itera's Kyiv branch said that four Ukrainian power plants paid for only 27.4 percent of the gas supplied by the company last month and that they currently owe it some $50 million. He noted that Itera plans to continue cooperating with the plants but added that "the deal depends only on payments." Itera sells gas to Ukrainian power plants at $45 per 1,000 cubic meters. JM


UKRAINIAN POLICE TAKE 'UNPRECEDENTED' MEASURES TO FIND MISSING JOURNALIST. Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko told the parliament on 6 October that police are taking "unprecedented" measures in their search for opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, who disappeared on 16 September, Interfax reported. Kravchenko said the investigation of Gongadze's disappearance has taken on a "political character" and has attracted "international publicity." According to Kravchenko, Gongadze's publications in the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda," which have been critical of Kyiv, may have contributed to his disappearance. "For the first time in the history of crime detection, it was decided to allow the wife [of a disappeared person] to participate in investigative measures and to discuss their results," Kravchenko told the lawmakers. However, he did not report any significant progress in the investigation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October)

OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER APPEALS OVER STATE 'PRESSURE.' Oleh Lyashko, chief editor of the opposition newspaper "Svoboda," has sent an open letter to the ambassadors in Kyiv of EU countries, the U.S., Russia, and Japan asking for help in purchasing printing equipment to publish his newspaper, Interfax reported on 6 October. Lyashko's letter mentions 14 publishing houses that had agreed to publish "Svoboda" but subsequently refused to do so while continuing to publish other newspapers. "Thus, we have every reason to say that the refusal of these publishers to print our newspaper was connected with pressure exercised on them by state bodies," Lyashko wrote. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)