UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'CALM' OVER BYPASS PIPELINE SCHEME... Commenting on Gazprom's plan to build a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000), Leonid Kuchma on 21 October urged his fellow countrymen to "remain calm," Interfax reported. Kuchma said the construction of such a pipeline is very expensive and cannot be completed "today or tomorrow." He noted that the capacity of the planned pipeline "cannot worry us, either." And he added that Ukraine's gas pipelines "fully satisfy the needs of Europe." Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said the previous day that neither Poland nor Slovakia will agree to build on their territories a gas pipeline that circumvents Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. JM

...ANNOUNCES 10-20 PERCENT RISE IN PENSIONS. Kuchma announced on 20 October that pensions will go up by 10-20 percent as of 1 December, Interfax reported. He pledged another increase in pensions in April of next year. JM

VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR CIS CITIZENS GO INTO EFFECT IN CZECH REPUBLIC. As of 22 October, citizens of Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Turkmenistan need visas to enter the Czech Republic, CTK reported, citing the Foreign Ministry. In May, Prague introduced visa requirements for Russian and Belarusian nationals and in late June for Ukrainian citizens. MS

RUSSIA TO GAIN SHARE OF UKRAINIAN PIPELINES... Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma that sets the stage for Russian ownership of privatized Ukrainian oil and gas infrastructure, Russian news services reported on 17 October. The accord allows Russian firms to purchase up to 49 percent of the Ukrainian national pipeline network and to move gas from Turkmenistan -- equal in volume to Gazprom's supplies to Ukraine -- through Russian territory. As a result, Gazprom and other Russian supplies gain control over Ukrainian pipelines, Moscow retains the dominant position in controlling the flow of Turkmen gas to Ukraine and will earn transit fees from that, and Russia will now be in a better position to pressure Turkmenistan as this deal with Ukraine effectively integrates Ashgabat into the Russian energy grid.

...EVEN AS IT WORKS ON PIPELINES TO BYPASS UKRAINE. Gazprom has signed a memorandum of understanding with Germany's Ruhrgas, France's Gaz de France, and the Italian gas giant ENI on financing for new pipelines that will bypass Ukraine, "Vedomosti" reported on 18 October. The Gazprom pipeline is to go through Belarus, Poland, and Slovakia on its way to Western Europe. The paper noted that the main obstacle to Russian designs is EU opposition to this obvious isolation of Ukraine, but it noted that President Vladimir Putin hopes to overcome these objections during talks with EU leaders in Paris on 30 October.