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PUTIN OFFERS TO 'HELP FRATERNAL' UKRAINE. In his multimedia televised question-and-answer session on October 25, President Putin said that Russia is prepared to help Ukraine if it faces "outside interference" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 25, 2006). In response to a question as to whether Russia could help Ukraine resolve increasing ethnic tensions concerning Crimean Tatars on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, Putin replied: "If the Ukrainian leadership considers it necessary and asks us for help, we will be ready, without immersing ourselves into these [ethnic] problems, without drawing Russia in trying to resolve such problems, to provide assistance to our closest neighbor. [We will help what we call] without exaggeration the brotherly republic of Ukraine, in order to protect it from outside interference, should anybody be tempted [to interfere]." He added that "when I said that, if it were necessary, and if there were a request from the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian leadership, Russia could guarantee at least one thing -- guarantee Ukraine against interference [by other countries] in its internal affairs. Should anybody be tempted to interfere, I assure you, the presence of the Russian fleet would prove rather useful." He did not indicate who might be tempted to interfere in such a way that the Russian Navy could prevent it. PM

PROSECUTORS PREPARE YET ANOTHER CHARGE AGAINST SELF-EXILED OLIGARCH. The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on October 26 that it has launched an investigation into an Internet interview recently given to the daily "Altaiskaya pravda" by self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, RIA Novosti reported. The prosecutors believe that Berezovsky issued an "open appeal for the forcible change of the constitution...which is a crime under the Russian Criminal Code." Berezovsky, who once had close ties to the Kremlin, fled Russia in 2000 after a falling out with President Putin. Berezovsky received asylum in London in 2003 and argues that he would never get a fair trial in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 24 and June 28, 2006). Russian authorities have repeatedly sought his extradition, most recently on the grounds that he advocated violent revolution in some interviews he gave earlier in 2006. Berezovsky maintains that he has simply called for a change of government in Russia on the model of the "colored revolutions" in Georgia and Ukraine. The British authorities have refused to extradite him but have also warned him not to advocate or plan violence against the Kremlin. PM

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DETAILS GAS DEVELOPMENT PLANS... President Saparmurat Niyazov detailed ambitious plans for Turkmenistan's natural-gas industry in an address before the country's Halk Maslahaty (People's Council) on October 25, the Turkmen opposition site Gundogar reported on October 27. Niyazov said that the country is pursuing four pipeline projects: a Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan-China pipeline with a capacity of 30 billion cubic meters a year; a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline; a pipeline along the Caspian shore through Kazakhstan and Russia to Ukraine; and a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-United Arab Emirates pipeline. Niyazov also said that his country plans to raise annual gas production from current levels of approximately 60 billion cubic meters to 250 billion cubic meters by 2030, NewsCentralAsia reported. Niyazov stressed that no privatization of Turkmenistan's oil and gas sector is planned before 2030. DK

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DENIES CONCESSIONS BEHIND GAS DEAL WITH RUSSIA. President Viktor Yushchenko denied on October 26 that Ukraine made any political concessions to reach a deal with Russia on gas prices, Interfax reported. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych announced on October 24 that Ukraine in 2007 will buy Russian gas at $130 per 1,000 cubic meters. The deal caused speculation that concessions had been given to Russia, including the extension of the Russian Black Sea Fleet presence in Crimea. "At the presidential level no political questions were discussed," Yushchenko said, "and I am sure that the government [did not discuss such questions] either." Yushchenko also said that the possible extension of the fleet's presence might be considered by the Yushchenko-Putin Commission, adding that a visit to Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin will be prepared "probably for this year." AM

UKRAINE TO INFORM RUSSIA ON WTO ACCESSION PROGRESS. Prime Minister Yanukovych said on October 26 that Ukraine is ready to inform Russia about its progress on WTO accession, Interfax reported the same day. "The fact that Ukraine and Russia are connected with close trade ties is good ground for informing our trade partner about our intentions while passing decisions on European integration or WTO entry," Yanukovych said, adding that similar actions should be made in sphere of foreign policy. However, Yanukovych stipulated that the government "has acted and will always act on the basis of Ukraine's national interests." Ukraine expected accession to the WTO has been postponed many times -- Yanukovych announced that WTO General Council should consider Ukraine's membership in February 2007. AM