UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SHRUGS OFF GAZPROM'S BYPASS PIPELINE... Leonid Kuchma on 19 October said Kyiv will not take any countermeasures against a project to supply Russian gas to Western Europe via Poland and Slovakia while circumventing Ukraine, Interfax reported. Kuchma was commenting on the 18 October letter of intent signed by Gazprom, Germany's Ruhrgas and Wintershall, France's Gaz de France, and Italy's SNAM to study and develop the new section of the planned Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. Kuchma noted that "it takes a lot of time [to proceed] from the project to its practical implementation." "There has been much talk about an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea area to Ceyhan [in Turkey]. Where is this pipeline?" Kuchma asked. JM

...AND REJECTS POSSIBILITY OF IMPORTING NORWEGIAN GAS. Kuchma said it would be "absolutely inexpedient" for Kyiv to be involved in the construction of a gas pipeline from Norway to Ukraine via Poland. He was commenting on reports in some Ukrainian media that Kyiv has entered talks with Warsaw on such a scheme. Kuchma added that Norwegian gas would be more expensive than that received by Ukraine from Russia and Turkmenistan. And while noting that Russia is politicizing the issue of gas supplies to Ukraine, he said "I would do the same if I were in their place." JM

POLAND CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL TALKS ON RUSSIA-EUROPE GAS PIPELINE. Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft on 19 October said Poland wants to organize an international conference of all countries interested in the construction of a gas pipeline linking Russia's Yamal peninsula with Western Europe, PAP reported. " We want to be a transit country, as this lies in Poland's interest, but at the same time Poland does not want [to harm the interests of] other countries," Luft added but did not elaborate. Polish officials have previously suggested that they do not want to harm Warsaw's "strategic partner" Ukraine by becoming involved in the construction of a Russia-Europe gas pipeline that would bypass Ukrainian territory (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 July 2000). JM