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BRITISH FIRM LOOKS TO UKRAINIAN GAS MARKET Britain's JKX Oil & Gas is looking to acquire a stake in Eural TransGas, a little-known Hungarian company with significant contracts to transport gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine, the "Financial Times" reported on 30 June. According to "Nefte Compass," JKX is acting in concert with Benam Holdings, a company with interests in Ukrainian and Central Asian gas markets. "Vedomosti" reported on 30 June that JKX entered the scene after Gazprom declined a proposal from Ukraine's Naftohaz Ukrainy that would have given each of the companies a 40 percent stake in Eural TG. (A Gazprom representative told the newspaper that the Russian monopolist would be interested in a "minimum of 50 percent" of Eural TG.) The "Financial Times" estimated Eural TG's contracts at $275 million annually; "Vedomosti" put their value at $130 million-200 million, with revenues of up to $1 billion in the case of exports to Western Europe. Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrainy have said that tax optimization explains Eural TG's role as the operator for Turkmen gas -- the Hungarian-registered company pays a mere 3 percent tax on profit -- but some investors have questioned the less-than-transparent arrangement. DK

UKRAINIANS PROTEST HIKES IN FOOD PRICES. Around 4,000 picketers gathered near the building of the Verkhovna Rada on 9 July to protest hikes in food prices, utilities, and limits on social guarantees, Interfax reported. The demonstrators demanded the dismissal of Economy and European Integration Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy along with a greater commitment to the agrarian sector in the government. They also demanded freezes on the prices of food, utilities, and housing, renewed state support for agriculture, and state controls on food prices. Representatives of the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, Our Ukraine, the Fatherland Party, the Sobor Party, the Ukrainian Popular Party, and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, among others, attended the protest. AM

ROMANIA FALLS NINE PLACES IN UNDP HUMAN-DEVELOPMENT RANKING. In the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) annual Human Development Report released on 8 July, Romania fell nine places to 72nd in the report's Human Development Index (see Baltic item above). That ranking placed Romania among countries listed as having "medium human development." Of all the European countries, only Ukraine (75), Albania (95), Turkey (96), and Moldova (108) fared worse in the index of 175 countries. Bulgaria was ranked 57th and Russia 63rd. The rankings are calculated using data on individual countries' per capita GDP, level of adult literacy, average life expectancy, and quality of education. ZsM