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

Capital investment in Ukraine’s economy fell 28% yoy last year, to $15 billion, reports the State Statistics Service. Investment in industry and agriculture fell by 34%; in construction by 36%; in retail by 29.5%; in real estate transactions by 29%. Investment in computers and telecom grew by 1.2%.

Two thirds of capital investments came from company funds. State budget funds accounted for 9%. Foreign investors accounted for only 0.4%. The drop in 2020 came after an 11% increase in 2019. During 2020, the drop deepened with every quarter, finishing with a 43% drop in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter of 2019.

Directing infrastructure investments into Luhansk, Ukraine’s easternmost region, Ukravtodor plans to pave three key road sections this year, totaling 176 km. By comparison, from 2014 to 2019, a total of 30 km of roads were repaired in the region, Alexander Kubrakov, CEO of the state highway agency, said Wednesday at the Ukraine 30 Infrastructure Forum. The World Bank and the European Investment Bank are helping to fund this year’s road work. Kubrakov said: “We will try to expand this project to the Donetsk region, our international partners are interested in this.”

    As medical teams started vaccinating yesterday in all 24 regions, the Health Ministry reported a 40% spike in the daily toll of detected cases – 8,147. By March 31, Ukraine is to receive 2 million doses of of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, enough to vaccinate 1 million people, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on TV Ukraina yesterday.

    President Zelenskiy has appointed former finance minister Oksana Markarova as ambassador to the United States. The president’s office said Thursday: “Oksana Markarova will set an example in the development of economic diplomacy: in attracting foreign direct investment in Ukraine, in promoting Ukrainian exports and defending the interests of Ukrainian business.”

    Ukroboronprom and Pakistan have signed an $85.6 million contract for the repair of the main battle tanks that Ukraine sold to Pakistan between 1997 and 2002. The Soviet-design T-80UD tanks were manufactured in Kharkiv at the Malyeshev Factory. After an initial shipment in 1997, Russia protested that Ukraine did not have export rights and withheld key components. Ukraine filled part of the order from stocks, then fabricated parts to complete the full order for 320 tanks.

    The maintenance contract with Pakistan was signed at IDEX-2021, the week-long international arms exhibition that ended yesterday in Abu Dhabi. “The Ukrainian delegation reached a number of preliminary agreements with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in the areas of high-precision weapons, unmanned platforms, space technologies, and aircraft engine repair,” Interfax-Ukraine reports. Strategic Industries Minister Oleh Urusky headed Ukraine’s mission and wrote on Facebook that he met with Brazil’s Deputy Defense Minister Marcus Pontis.

    Ukraine accuses Russian hackers of trying to disseminate malicious documents through a web-based system on which government documents are circulated. The aim was to contaminate information resources on the System of Electronic Interaction of Executive Bodies, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said. “The methods and means of carrying out this cyber attack allow (us) to connect it with one of the hacker spy groups from the Russian Federation,” the council said. Separately, on Monday, Kyiv accused Russian internet networks of attacks on Ukrainian security and defense websites.

    At least 1,000 highly skilled engineers would have been required to develop the code that hijacked widely used network software from US-based SolarWinds to deploy malware around the world, Microsoft President Brad Smith told the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington Tuesday. Smith said: “We’ve seen substantial evidence that points to the Russian foreign intelligence agency, and we have found no evidence that leads us anywhere else.” At least nine government agencies and 100 private companies were breached. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday it will be “weeks, not months,” before the U.S. responds to Russia.

    Ukrainians spend $4.2 billion on imports of new and used vehicles last year, reports Ukravtoprom, the car industry association. Car imports were down by 11%, to 486,300, or $3.5 billion. Almost 100,000 cars were imported from Germany, making it the top source. As restrictions on diesel cars spread in Germany, prices on late model diesels have dropped, making them attractive to Ukrainian buyers. Sales of trucks and vans dropped by 16%, to 43,500. Germany was also the top supplier.

    Over the next five years, up to $500 million will be invested to develop a year round resort in mountains around the century-old Carpathian resort of Slavske, Lviv region. Phase one will include 20 km of ski trails and hotels and ski-in ski-out condos, that Vasyl Danyliak, first vice president of OKKO Group, the lead investor. Danyliak and Oleksandr Shevchenko,co-owner of Bukovel, signed an agreement Wednesday with Ukravtodor on development of roads to support Carpathian mountain tourism.

    The tourist flow and spending has not changed this winter at Bukovel, Shevchenko told Interfax-Ukraine at the Infrastructure Forum. Tourist spending averages €150 per day. Many skiers and snowboarders bought their passes last summer at a 50% discount. Shevchenko said that $15 million was invested in Bukovel last year. Looking ahead, he said the resort owners would like to invest in storing the terminal at Ivano-Frankivsk airport, if the Infrastructure Ministry rebuilds the old Soviet runway.

    HBO, the US pay TV network, is negotiating with Ukraine to create an “offline attraction” in the Chornobyl Zone, deputy presidential chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko, told the Infrastructure Forum. “It will not be an amusement park…it will attract many foreign tourists,” he said of the decommissioned nuclear plant, a 2-hour drive north of Kyiv. In 2019, millions of viewers around the world watched HBO’s 5-part Chernobyl miniseries. This April 26, the 35th anniversary of the nuclear disaster, marks the start of a program to memorialize the area, says Ukraine’s Culture and Information Policy Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko.

    To prepare for boat tours as early as this year from Kyiv to Chornobyl, the Pripyat River was dredged last year by the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority. To allow the passage of a boat with a maximum draft of 1.6 meters, the Authority dredged 130,000 cubic meters from the 64 km section of the river between the Kyiv Sea and the Belarus border. Environmentalists warned that dredging in the exclusion zone would stir up radioactive sediments from the 1986 nuclear plant fire. Environmental Protection Minister Roman Abramovsky responded last summer that radioactivity was monitored daily and that no river sediment was thrown ashore.

    Editor’s Note: Like it or not, Chornobyl is a big international draw for Ukraine. Thousands of tourists fly from around the planet to visit a site two north of Kyiv that most Kyiv residents never visit. For people living in a country that gets half of its electricity from aging, Soviet-era nuclear reactors, a Chornobyl visit is a good education on where our electric power comes from. With Best Regards Jim Brooke

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