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Tuesday, January 5

Covid Recedes…Lockdown Starts Friday Morning…Vaccines Are Coming -- from China, Poland, and COVAX…Ukrainians Flee Cash for Cards…Kyiv Enjoys Crimea Weather
James Brooke
by James Brooke
UBN Morning News is reported and written by James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow Bureau Chief

Official numbers indicate that Ukraine’s coronavirus epidemic has receded according to official numbers. Hospitalizations are down 20% from the early December level of 28,500, Prime Minister Shmyhal said yesterday. Daily new confirmed cases are running between 4,100 and 8,000 – between one quarter and one half of the peak of 16,300 at the end of November. Yesterday morning’s reported level of 4,158 new cases was the lowest in three months, since Oct. 5.

Today, only one third of the nation’s 77,000 Covid beds are occupied, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov reported yesterday. This is a sharp contrast to November when Covid hospitals in Kyiv were full and turned away patients.

Confirmed cases may have dropped because people with mild cases do not want to go through the bother and expense of being tested. In addition, over the last three months, 6% of Ukraine’s population fell ill with traditional influenza and acute respiratory viral infection. Some of these could have been Covid cases. For example, in October, 1,998 people died of influenza and pneumonia in Ukraine, nearly four times the 579 who died one year earlier, reports OpenDataBot, citing State Statistics Service data on cause of death.

“There is a probability that we actually have fewer people now being infected with this coronavirus, and it is possible that the first wave is coming to an end,” Serhiy Komistarenko, a member of Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, told RBK Ukraine last week.  “And it would be good if the second wave did not start at all — or began much later.”  To date, 5.6 million PCR tests have been administered, 1.1 million Ukrainians have fallen ill, and almost 19,000 are known to have died.

In face of falling infection numbers, business groups are pressuring the government to soften the lockdown that starts this Friday, the day after Orthodox Christmas, and runs through Sunday January 24.  Last week, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine appealed to lift restriction on supermarkets which will be forced to curtain off non-food items. “From January 8, even in supermarkets it will be forbidden to sell a significant part of everyday goods: household chemicals and tools, clothing, presses, light bulbs, batteries, children’s products for education,” the Chamber said in a statement.

Starting at 12:01 am on Friday, mandatory closures cover: all restaurants, bars, schools, gyms, swimming and non-food stores. Allowed will be: food stores, pharmacies, medical clinics, sales of hygiene products, telephones and animal food; car repairs; gas stations, banks, ATMS, post offices, beauty salons and barbers by appointment and hotels and hostels.

To prepare for economic pain from the coming lockdown, the government has distributed $130 million in grants to almost half a million small business owners and their employees, Prime Minister Shmygal reported yesterday by video link to President Zelenskiy.

The government is heeding Health Minister Stepanov’s call to stick with the Friday shutdown. “Many people ask whether we plan to postpone or cancel the quarantine, as the number of cases has been falling,” he told reporters last week. “With regard to the strict quarantine from January 8 to January 24, we are not going to introduce any changes.” Yesterday, during a video meeting with President Zelenskiy, Stepanov predicted that cases will increase after the holidays.

Ukraine will only start to return to normal this spring, Viktor Lyashko, chief sanitary doctor, predicts in an interview with Ukraina 24 TV. “We will start out a step-by-step return to our usual rhythm of life in April,” predicts Lyashko who is also Deputy Health Minister. “[Until then] We will not completely get rid of anti-epidemic restrictions and such harsh quarantines.”

In coming weeks, Ukraine hopes to receive almost 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, enough to vaccinate 10 million people, about one third of the adult population this year. The Health Ministry’s goal is to inoculate at least 50% of Ukraine’s 36.5 million people by the end of 2022. All vaccines require two shots. Here are the numbers:

China’s Sinovac Biotech: Last week Ukraine’s Health Ministry of Health signed a $34 million ProZorro contract for delivery of 1.9 million doses. Health Minister Maksym Stepanov predicts the first vaccines will arrive next month.

COVAX – President Zelenskiy wrote Thursday on Telegram: “We are working to increase supply through COVAX [from 8 million] to 16 million doses.” COVAX is a multinational collaboration organize to ensure equitable distribution around the globe of several coronavirus vaccines.

Poland has offered to transfer 1.5 million vaccine doses to Ukraine, Yevhen Enin, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, told Interfax-Ukraine.

Russia’s Sputnik V: Despite an announcement in Moscow that this vaccine will undergo ‘clinical trials’ in Ukraine, officials here say it will not be allowed. Arsen Zhumadilov, Head of Medical Procurement of Ukraine, a state enterprise, wrote on Facebook Sunday: “To rely on a state Russian company during a Russian armed aggression against Ukraine on the question of providing epidemic safety for the country is being ignorant to say the least.”

The Covid economy accelerated Ukrainians’ flight from cash in 2020, indicate figures from PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest bank. Last year, Ukrainians’ transactions with PrivatBank terminals increased by 31% yoy, to the hryvnia equivalent of $11.5 billion. Spending in pharmacies was up 40%, to almost $1 billion. Spending food stores was up 48%, to almost $6 billion. Spending on clothes and shoes was down 1.6%, to almost $900 million.

Surfing the net during lockdowns, Ukrainians boosted visits to Ukrainian Wikipedia last year by 21% yoy. In 2020, 855.1 million pages were visited, raising Ukrainian Wikipedia to the rank of 17th most popular worldwide, according to the Ukrainian Wikipedia editor’s blog.

The New Year’s holiday temperatures were some of the warmest on record, with the weather comparable to that of a normal mid-October, reported Central Geophysical Observatory. On Thursday and Friday, record highs were set at 8.4C, or 47F, on each day. This follows Kyiv’s warmest autumn since record keeping started in 1881. Because of the warm weather, the Dnipro River season has been extended through January, an unprecedented time expected to be free of major ice.

Editor’s Note: It may be comforting for some Ukrainians to learn that the US has its own fair share of stupid people. Yesterday, I received a UPS package marked ‘Extremely Urgent’ and addressed to “Ukraine S.S.R.” No, it was not 30 years late. It was a replacement for a UPS package that the US-company proved incapable of delivering last month to an office address in Kyiv with a 24-hour reception. Resolutely ignoring all emails from me with mobile numbers and delivery instructions, the US-designed ‘tracking’ system sent me an ominous crescendo of emails: first declaring that the package was ‘abandoned,’ and then, that it was being ‘destroyed.’ There should be an NGO: Morons Without Borders. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke

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Friday, December 18

Investment Nannies to Discipline Bad Bureaucrats…New Agriculture Minister Wants to Restore Irrigation and Milk Production…Turkey and Ukraine Form Black Sea Alliance Against Russia…Bloomberg Despairs of Zelenskiy…Kyiv to Modernize 5 Regional Airports Next Year
James Brooke
by James Brooke
UBN Morning News is reported and written by James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow Bureau Chief

Ukraine’s version of Mary Poppins – the ‘investment nannies’ – were voted into existence by the Rada yesterday as part of a wider package of incentives for foreign and domestic investors. The investment nannies – male or female – will be legally empowered to implement incentives on large foreign investments, those over €20 million in five years. Incentives range from discounts on corporate income taxes and import taxes, access to land, and state provision of highway access and heat, gas, water and electricity hookups. These legally empowered fixers will be encouraged to intervene with mayors, governors, ministers and even the President to cut red tape on big projects.

Signaling that Ukraine is open for business, the new law covers a wide range of sectors, including: processing of food and minerals; waste management, transport, logistics, warehouses, package delivery, education, IT, health care, art, culture, tourism and sports. Ineligible for incentives are: alcohol, cigarettes, coal, oil and gas. The new law “allows Ukraine to introduce competitive conditions with neighboring countries to encourage the attraction of both domestic and international investors,” said Yulia Kovaliv, President Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff, a prime mover of the new legislation.

With the government planning to recreate an agriculture ministry next month, the Rada approved yesterday Roman Leshchenko as the new minister of Agrarian Policy and Food. Most recently head of the State Land Cadaster, Leshchenko says he favors the limited farm land market that is to start next year. Addressing the Rada yesterday, Leshchenko called for a $2 billion program to restore and expand Soviet-era irrigation systems in southern Ukraine.

Leshchenko, aged 32, pledged to make the national farm land registry more transparent, brining millions of hectares ‘out of the shadows’ into the taxable economy. “Everyone knows that in the Chornobyl zone they are engaged in agricultural production,” he said of clandestine farming in the exclusion zone. Subsidies should be targeted to professional dairy farmers, helping to import ‘high-quality heifers.’ He said national milk production has fallen to the level of 1946.

The Rada also appointed Serhiy Shkarlet as Minister of Education and Science. The ruling party failed to muster enough votes appoint Yuriy Vitrenko, former executive director of Naftogaz, as Energy Minister.

Six months ago, it was called the Ministry of Energy and Coal Mining. But yesterday, Olha Buslavets, first deputy Ministry of Energy, briefed British officials that Ukraine “soon will join the Coalless Alliance.” Started by Britain and formally called the Powering Past Coal Alliance, the group is composed of 34 nations committed to phasing out coal. “We plan to gradually reduce the number of coal mines, and by 2070 to abandon the use of fossil fuels, gaining full climate neutrality,” promised Buslavets. “It is important to accompany the transformation of coal regions by creating new economic incentives, so that new competitive clusters and new innovation and technological industries.”

DTEK rejects as “a politically motivated provocation” a report by the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) that the power company sought have Buslavets installed last spring as Minister to derail an investigation into the Rotterdam Plus coal pricing deal. “For almost a year, the Ministry of Energy has not had a fixed minister to lead it,” the privately-owned company complains in a statement. “There are endless discussions concerning the appointments of a minister and his/her deputies, while the industry is becoming virtually unmanageable.”

Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “It will be extremely hard to prove wrongdoing in the Rotterdam Plus approach implementation, and even harder to claim repayment for any damages from it…All in all, we remain in our position that there is little risk for DTEK’s fundamentals from NABU’s efforts.”

Today, the foreign ministers and defense ministers of Turkey and Ukraine meet in Kyiv for the first of what are to be regular ‘2+2’ meetings. Today’s meeting comes as both Black Sea nations step a military production partnership undoubtedly seen as threatening by the Kremlin. “Baku’s Success in Using Turkish Drones Raises Question: Could Ukraine Use Them Against Russia in Crimea?” asks the headline on a Jamestown piece by Paul Goble. “Kyiv has absorbed the lessons from the recent fighting in Karabakh and decided to move forward more rapidly on its UAV strategy and defense cooperation with Turkey,” Goble writes, noting that Ukraine has ordered 48 Turkish attack drones. “[This] is likely to set off alarm bells in Russia, whose forces will be the most likely targets of Turkish drones deployed by Ukraine.”

“Ukraine’s Leader Is Being Broken by the System He Vowed to Crush,” headlines a Bloomberg report from Kyiv. “Volodymyr Zelenskiy is flailing as hard-won reforms since the 2014 ouster of the country’s Kremlin-backed leader are being unraveled,” reads the report by two veteran reporters here, Daryna Krasnolutska and Volodymyr Verbyany. No high-ranking officials have been locked up on Zelenskiy’s watch. Market-friendly reformers hired to close the book on Ukraine’s post-Soviet politics were swept aside in a reshuffle, while some Western members of state-owned company boards have been pushed out.”

Bloomberg offered hope that President-elect Biden will work to restore the free market reform momentum in Ukraine. The article cites a recent Razumkov Center survey where 42% of respondents ranked Zelenskiy as political “disappointment of 2020.”  67% of respondents said Ukraine is going in the wrong direction, a reversal from 36% one year ago. Similarly, last week only 20% of respondents said the Zelenskiy government is better than the Poroshenko government; 30% said it is worse; and 41% said there is no difference.

Today an agreement is to be signed allowing construction of Lviv’s Northern Bypass, says Oleksandr Kubrakov, head of Ukravtodor. Completing the missing link on Lviv’s ring road, the new highway will connect the M-06 Kyiv-Chop highway with three roads leading from Lviv to Poland. Speaking in Lviv, Kubrakov praised the Big Construction program in Lviv Region this year:  278 km of national roads repaired for $78 million.

Ukraine’s air passenger traffic should return next year to 50% the level of 2019, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krikliy predicted yesterday at a press conference in Kyiv. This year, he said, air passenger traffic is only 28% the level of 2019.

Following a strategy of modernizing five regional airports a year, the government has budgeted $85 million to renovate in 2021 the airports of Dnipro, Kherson, Rivne, Vinnytsia and Odesa. Almost 60% of the money will go Dnipro. Over three years, $220 million is to be spent in Dnipro, rebuilding the runway and building a new, privately owned terminal capable of handling 1,000 passengers an hour. In 2022, the Ministry plans to renovate the airports of Cherkasy, Chernivtsi, Poltava, and Sumy and to start building a new airport in Zakarpattia.

Editor’s Note: Not since the days of Catherine the Great have the north and south shores of the Black Sea been on the same page. The emerging Turkey-Ukraine partnership – none dare call it an alliance – is worth watching. How far it will go and how long it will last remain to be seen. But, while geopolitical analysts ululate that Putin is playing ‘3D Chess’ (whatever that is), it is clear that Russia’s Czar has made some bad moves. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke

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Friday, December 4

Dnipro to Once Again Become the Mississippi of Ukraine…China Leads List of Partners for Free Trade Talks…Dragon Buys Site for Industrial Park Near Lviv…November Weekend Shopping Ban Cost Malls $250 million 
James Brooke
by James Brooke
UBN Morning News is reported and written by James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow Bureau Chief

After 12 years of discussion, the Rada yesterday passed a river development bill designed to triple cargo carried on the Dnipro to 30 million tons by 2025. Ships will pass free through river’s six locks. To modernize the aging river gates, an ‘Inland Waterways Fund’ will be created, funded largely by excise taxes on fuel. During the late Soviet era, 60 million tons of cargo moved annually on the Dnipro.

A revitalised working river will generate an extra $500 million in economic activity, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krikliy said on his Telegram account. He added that for each 1 million tons of cargo carried on the river, Ukraine can save $35 million in road repairs.

“All over the world, river transportation is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way of delivering goods,” Artem Kovalev, Rada member and chief author of the law, wrote on Facebook. “Ukraine has a huge potential for the development of water transport, but now less than 1% of all goods are transported by the river (in the EU it is 7%). At the same time, the Danube and Dnipro are included in five largest rivers in Europe.”

Renewal of the Dnipro is expected to revive two Soviet era economic activities: shipbuilding and river cruise tourism. Due to global warming, the Dnipro’s ice-free shipping season seems to be expanding — to nine months. President Zelenskiy, a promoter of the bill, said he would sign the legislation soon. 

Ukraine wants to start free trade talks next year with a host of countries, led by its largest trading partner, China, Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s Trade Representative, told Evropeiska Pravda. “Currently, the access of our products to the Chinese market is subject to higher duties than Chinese products to us,” he said, referring to a trade relationship that totalled $9.4 through August. 

Ukraine would like to reopen and liberalise the UK-Ukraine agreement that was signed two months ago in London, a rushed deal designed to beat the December 31 Brexit deadline. Also on the list are countries with major trade deficits with Ukraine due to food exports: Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco and Vietnam. The Ukraine-Israel free trade agreement enters into effect on Jan. 1.

Even without a UK-Ukraine trade pact renegotiation, Ukrainian food exporters are showing “great interest” in the expanded duty-free access to the British market, Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba told Interfax-Ukraine after a bilateral briefing on trade opportunities. Furniture manufacturers have gone on two trade missions to Britain recently, he said. He added: “ Even Ukrainian manufacturers of Christmas tree decorations are now interested in the British market.”

Helped by cheaper energy import prices, Ukraine’s trade deficit in goods is running at half the level of last year, reported the State Customs Service. Through November, the trade deficit was $3.93 billion, down from $8.15 billion recorded during the first 10 months of last year. Year over year, exports were down 3.5%, while imports were down 10.8%.

Dragon Capital has acquired Lviv Industrial Park located on a 23.5-hectare land plot on the M10 highway, 60 km east of the Polish border. Five years ago, CTP, the largest developer and operator of warehouses and industrial parks in Central and Eastern Europe, bought the site — the Czech company’s first foray into the former Soviet Union. For Dragon, the Lviv site complements their 49-hectare site on the Kyiv-Zhytomyr highway where an industrial park is in the planning stages. “We are ready to start construction of new Class A facilities in our industrial parks in the coming years,” says Dragon CEO Tomas Fiala.

The ban on shopping during three weekends in November cost Ukrainian shopping malls about $250 million, the Ukrainian Council of Shopping Centers told Interfax-Ukraine. The 30-40% drop in weekend sales was partially offset by 10-20% increases on Fridays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Epicenter, one of the nation’s largest retailers, lost 750,000 weekend visits and $35 million in weekend sales, says Vladimir Goncharov, Epicenter’s director of retail trade. The drop in sales will ripple through the economy effecting 5,000 suppliers, largely Ukrainian, and sales tax payments.

“Business without Barriers” is a movement promoted by First Lady Olena Zelenska to reduce the physical and psychological barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in the work force and society at large. A declaration of support was signed this week by representatives of: Ukrposhta, Oschadbank, Ukrzaliznytsia, Auchan, 1+1 Media, DTEK, Socar,, ATB, and Danone. Ukrzaliznytsia said it is making stations, platforms and trains easier for travellers in wheelchairs, the elderly and parents with small children.

DTEK says that almost 3,000 of its 70,000 employees have disabilities, “We are actively introducing the best services for our clients so that our services are as accessible as possible,” says DTEK CEO Maxim Timchenko. Yesterday, DTEK, the largest private investor in Ukraine’s energy sector, became Ukraine’s first company to join ‘The Valuable 500,’ an international movement dedicated to improving the integration of employees and clients with disabilities.

Editor’s Note:  Often shrouded in poetry and romance, the Dnipro also is a working river — Ukraine’s Mississippi. To the envy of Russia, the Mississippi and the Dnipro flow south carrying produce from vast agricultural lands to world markets, through the Gulf of Mexico and the Black Sea. By contrast, Russia’s rivers flow north, generally emptying into the Arctic. The Volga flows into the Caspian — also not very useful. In Ukraine, river infrastructure experts — from the Dutch to the US Army Corps of Engineers — have been standing by for the last decade, waiting for Kyiv to pass the bill that the Rada passed yesterday. A new decade may dawn as Ukrainians rediscover what the Vikings knew 1,000 years ago — the economic utility of the mighty Dnipro. With best regards, Jim Brooke

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Monday, November 16

As EU Seeks Shorter Supply Lines, EBRD to Loan €200 million to Develop Ukraine Mining...Thanks to IT and China, Ukraine Has Trade Surplus...Kyiv Metro Ridership Drops 38%...Police Enforce Weekend Quarantine, Politicians Fight Personal Covid Battles
James Brooke
by James Brooke
UBN Morning News is reported and written by James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow Bureau Chief

The EBRD is ready to loan Ukraine €200 million to conduct a nationwide inventory of mineral deposits and to prepare promising deposits for mining through transparent auctions of licenses, Prime Minister Shmyhal reports after online talks with Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission’s vice president for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight. After the coronavirus pandemic shook confidence in long distance supply chains, the EU launched last month the European Raw Materials Alliance. Last year, Šefčovič, a Slovakian diplomat, helped broker the new gas transit deal between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz.

As Europe’s largest nation, mineral-rich Ukraine could play a key role in ensuring EU security of supply. Citing the possibility of building a battery plant in Ukraine for electric cars and buses, Shmyhal said: “We are considering opportunities to develop approaches jointly with the EU to use Ukraine’s potential in the extraction industry to help the EU and together build globally competitive value-added production chains in Europe.”

Shmyhal told the Rada on Nov. 6 that proper development of mining could generate $400 billion in economic activity over the next decade. Ukraine has road and rail links with its four EU neighbors – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

Amber, gold, kaolin, and manganese are among the 11 mineral and groundwater deposits that go up for electronic auction Dec. 23, reports the State Service of Geology and Subsoil. The next auction will offer about 50 more sites, according to Roman Opimakh, head of the agency, known as Gosgeonadr. In the first year since electronic auctions became mandatory, the price of licenses increased 15-fold, earning the state about $28 million, Opimakh says.

With imports falling faster than exports, Ukraine recorded a $531 million trade surplus for January-September, compared to a $4.2 billion deficit during the same nine months last year.

For services, IT helped save the day as Ukraine’s balance of trade in this area showed a $4.4 billion surplus, reports the State Statistics Service. Compared to the first three quarters of last year, exports of services dropped by 12% to $8.15 billion, while imports fell by 26.5% to $3.7 billion.

For goods, China saved the day by increasing its purchases of Ukrainian goods by 86%, to $4.8 billion, and cutting its imports by 12%, to $5.8 billion. Overall, Ukraine’s deficit of  foreign trade in goods fell to $2.9 billion, less than half the level for the first three quarters of last year, $ 7.2 billion. So far, Ukraine’s exports of goods are down 5.6%, to $35 billion. Imports of goods are down 14%, to 38 billion.

Alexander Lukashenko, the self-appointed president of Belarus threatened Friday to cut off trade with Ukraine, reports BelTA, the state news agency. “You watch out because we could shut the border for goods coming from the Ukrainian territory,” he said, addressing Ukraine, which counts Belarus as its fourth largest trading partner nation. “And then you won’t be able to supply products to our market, you won’t even be able to process Ukrainian products in Belarus before supplying them to other markets, primarily the Eurasian one,” he said, referring to Ukraine’s transfer trade with Russia. Since declaring himself the winner last August of elections widely dismissed as fraudulent, Lukashenko has kept power through “A Reign of Terror,” The New York Times reported yesterday from Minsk.

In the five months since the Kyiv Metro reopened in late May, ridership is down by 38% yoy, to 132.8 million passengers, the subway system reports. The busiest stations are on the Red Line – Vokzalna and the two terminuses, Lisova and Akademmistechko. The Metro operates normally during the weekend quarantine. Face masks are mandatory.

With Ukraine reporting a record 12,524 new Covid cases Saturday morning, police fanned out across the nation, fining and closing businesses found violating the ‘weekend quarantine.’ By noon yesterday, the National Police reported inspecting over 17,000 businesses and closing 1,355. With only food stores and pharmacies allowed to work on Saturday and Sunday, two thirds of closings were of retail stops. The tally included six shopping malls and 416 cafes and restaurants. Epicenter, one of the nation’s largest retail chains, dropped its threat to remain open during the three weekend quarantines.

Retailers and regional politicians pushed back with at least eight regional capitals – or one third of the total — refusing to participate. In Lviv, Mayor Andriy Sadoviy, who faces a tight runoff vote this Sunday, declared that the city will have no weekends for the rest of November. “It is impossible to introduce weekend quarantine in Lviv, since we do not have days off,” he wrote on his Facebook page of the City Council decision. “If tomorrow someone tries to interfere with your work, show this decision…Our lawyers will help protect your rights.”

“Lviv has always been and is a city of small and medium-sized businesses, and 50,000 Lviv residents and their families can suffer from this decision,” he said, echoing the complaints of other mayors and governors. So far, he said, the pandemic has cost the city $35 million in lost taxes. A nationwide petition to President Zelenskiy demanding cancellation quickly received the needed minimum of 25,000 signatures.

The pushback comes as architects of the limited quarantine now wage their own personal battles with coronavirus. On Saturday, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19. Also under treatment are: President Zelenskiy, his chief of staff, the speaker of the Rada, the first deputy speaker of the Rada, and the Finance Minister. ZN.UA reports that 14 Rada members and 31 Rada staffers now are sick. Since the start of the pandemic, the news site calculates, 75 deputies – or 18% of the total – have been hit by the virus.

In Kyiv, about 1,000 new infections are reported daily by Mayor Klitschko.In the eight months since the first case was recorded in Ukraine, almost 1,000 people have died of coronavirus complications in Kyiv. Klitschko and the mayor of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, both were infected before the Oct. 25 local elections. They both won on the first round.

At present, patients occupy about 60% of the 52,000 beds in the nation’s coronavirus wards. Although more beds are being added, only 38% of the 52,000 beds are equipped with oxygen. On Friday, the day before he tested positive, Health Minister Stepanov warned reporters: “If we fail to comply with rules, we may get 100% bed occupancy in a month.”

Editor’s Note: If mayors and governors want to play politics with slowing the spread of Covid, maybe the President should step on their oxygen hoses. No quarantine, no health money. Until mass vaccinations start, the only effective barriers are masks and social distancing. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke