Ukraine and Israel are negotiating mutual recognition of “vaccination passports” for tourist travel, Yevhen Korniychuk, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel, told Ukraine 24 TV. In September, more than 4,000 Hasidic Jewish pilgrims plan to travel to Uman, Cherkasy region, for the High Holidays. Although Israel has the world’s highest vaccination rate for a major country – 44% — some Orthodox Jews refuse to be vaccinated.
UIA said that it has refunded $2.5 million to travelers last month for flights cancelled due to COVID-19. These refunds, up to 15,000 passengers, brings to $29 million the airline has refunded to customers over the last year.
Passenger traffic at Kyiv Boryspil was down by two thirds during the first two months of this year, compared to January-February 2020, reported the Center for Transportation Studies. With UIA’s suspension of its hub system, transfer passengers were down 94%, to 20,018. Passengers on regular, scheduled flights were down 75%, to 373,726. Faring best were vacationers on charter flights, which were down by 30%, to 298,332.
A total of 1,000 people a day crossed the two checkpoints with Russia-controlled Crimea last month, reported Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service. This volume – 27,300 people – was down 88% compared to February, 2019.
In the last six months, Ukraine’s Central Bank has moved from collegiality to Soviet-style centralism, Kateryna Rozhkova, First Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, said in a lengthy interview with NV. “There’s actually a rollback,” she says. Relations with the new Governor of the Central Bank have become so frosty that they only communicate in group meetings, on Zoom. She said: “If there are any questions and I comment on something, he comments on something. It does not mean that we communicate with him.”
Hours after the interview with NV was posted on Facebook yesterday, the bank’s communications department tried — unsuccessfully — to censor the interview. Rozhkova also complained that she is no longer invited to key meetings and that her opinions are not heard on PrivatBank, the bank she helped to nationalize in 2016. In response, Galyna Kalachova, the bank spokeswoman, wrote on Facebook that Rozhkova had been asked to edit the text to reflect bank policy. She wrote: “One-voice policy is important.”
Independence of the Central Bank became the critical issue with the IMF last summer after President Zelenskiy pushed out the internationally known and respected governor, Yakiv Smoliy. In the ensuing shakeup, several top officials left the bank and Rozhkova’s responsibilities were reduced. The public dispute comes one week after the bank raised prime for the first time in two year, to 6.5%. President Zelenskiy favors easy money policies.
With the $5 billion IMF lending program to Ukraine suspended, Bloomberg and Reuters moved stories yesterday on the spat. Bloomberg headlined: “Another Ukrainian Central Banker Speaks Out on Governance Fears.” Reuters headlined: “Ukraine central bank denies it tried to censor top official.”
Ukrzaliznytsia passenger service – which has been hemorrhaging money loser – lost 26% more of its income in the last year, a total of $314 million, said Volodomyr Zhmak, the state railroad’s CEO, yesterday. Due to quarantine restrictions on travel, passenger traffic decreased by 56%, to 68 million passengers. Estimating that the railroad’s locomotives and cars are “90% worn out,” Zhmak praised the government for allocating $145 million this year for the renovation of rolling stock. In Ukraine, freight subsidizes passenger service.
The share of UZ cars in freight trains has dropped in half – from 47% in 2018 to 21% in 2021, Zhmak said. This year, Zhmak wants to increase the UZ portion to 40%. Private cars are more popular because they are cheaper and in better shape. Critics charge UZ drags its feet on pilot projects to allow private freight trains on UZ tracks.
Former Ukrzaliznytsia CEO Wojciech Balczun is co-owner of Aurum Polonez, an amber mining company in Klesiv, northern Rivne oblast, according to Nadra.info. A Polish rock musician, Balczun ran UZ in 2016-2017. His partners are Poland’s Amos Investments and Mykola Nemtsov, who was UZ’s acting director of security during Balczun’s time at the railroad.
Egis Ukraina, a French-financed engineering company working in Ukraine for the last three decades, has entered into a joint venture with Ertle, Ltd, an international engineering and construction holding, known locally as Derffer. The new company is called Egis Ertle Engineering. Ignace Haertlé, founder of the Ertle Group and major Derffer shareholder, notes that the company worked on the NOVARKA new safe confinement for Chornobyl, saying: “Through the years, we have delivered projects for both international and local clients including turnkey contracts, reconstructions, adaptations.”
Half of Ukrainians seeking work abroad want to go to Poland, with two thirds looking for seasonal work, according to an OLX Work survey last month of 7,700 Ukrainian job seekers. The other top two destinations are: the Czech Republic – 11%; and Germany – 9%. The primary reasons are: high salaries in the EU – 60%; and difficult financial situation at home – 39%. Construction and factory work account for half of the jobs sought.
Resistance to vaccinations against the coronavirus is high and growing in Ukraine, the AP reports in an article headlined: “Wide resistance to vaccines plagues Ukraine’s COVID-19 fight.” The portion of poll respondents who do not want to get vaccinated rose from 40% in February to 60% in March 2021, according to polls of 1,200 Ukrainians conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. In the first half of 2019, resistance to measles vaccinations lead to 5,000 cases in Kyiv and 50,000 nationwide.
The Health Ministry reported that 40% of medical workers say they do not want to be vaccinated. In the Donetsk village of Selydove, a visiting AP reporter found that only 5% of medical workers agreed to be vaccinated. Thirty kilometers away, in the frontline town of Krasnohorivka, AP reported: “Soldiers widely refused to be vaccinated.”
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.
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.
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.
For summer travel, Pegasus Airlines will launch six routes from Ukrainian cities to Turkish resort towns. With flights starting as early as April, the Turkish discount airline will fly from Kyiv Boryspil to Bodrum, Dalaman and Izmir. Pegasus also will fly to Bodrum from Kharkiv, Lviv and Zaporizhia.
SkyUp, Ukraine’s largest discount airline, started last year with double the fleet – all Boeing 737s – but carried only 1.2 million passengers, half its forecast. Despite a bad year, the airline retained most of its staff and is holding to its 5-year plan: add 5 to 7 new jets, open new bases and win 50% of Ukraine’s air passenger market.
This spring, SkyUp starts service from Kyiv Boryspil to two Polish cities popular with Ukrainian workers: Katowice and Lodz. At the end of May, as the tourism season starts, SkyUp plans to start service from Kyiv to Hannover, Marseille, Malta and Nuremburg. Adding new cities and new countries in June, the airline announces: “We are preparing to start flying from Kyiv and the regions to Poland, Germany, Denmark, Jordan, Sweden, Serbia and the Netherlands.”
Airlines are betting on Ukraine’s enduring love affair with Italy. Starting in late May, SkyUp will expand its Kyiv flight network to nine Italian cities: Bari, Bergamo, Bologna, Catania, Lamezia Terme, Naples, Rome and Rimini. In June, Lumiwings, a Greek company, plans to start flights between Odesa and two Italian cities – Forli and Perugia. At the end of April, UIA starts daily flights from Kyiv to Milan, Rome and Venice.
A sign of summer travel: people who want to visit Italy’s Sardinia island will have to present a coronavirus vaccination certificate, Governor Christian Solinas tells L’Unione newspaper, according to ANSA. Prior to boarding a plane or ferry, travelers will have to show a certificate of having received the two shots – and having tested negative.
UIA restores flights from Kyiv to New York, Toronto, Delhi, Cairo and London-Heathrow, according to a new summer schedule that starts in time for the May holidays. The new schedule also restores a host of EU cities and increases frequencies to existing EU destinations.
The start date of vaccinations against Covid-19 in Ukraine is slipping by 2-3 weeks, Andriy Slavutsky, head of UNICEF health programs said yesterday at a vaccination training event. Due to paperwork delays, “the Pfizer should arrive in late February or early March,” he said. Moldova also hopes to start vaccinating in early March, By contrast, Ukraine’s EU neighbors –Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania – already have vaccinated 5-6% of their populations, according to the Financial Times vaccine tracker. Russia has vaccinated 2.7%. Belarus started vaccinating last month with the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.
Ukraine hopes to sign its long-delayed Open Skies agreement with the EU in 10 days, when Charles Michel, president of the European Council, visits Kyiv, Prime Minister Shmyhal tells Ukrinform. Fresh from a 2-day visit to Brussels, Shmyhal says: “At a face-to-face meeting, [EU Foreign Minister Josep] Borrell confirmed there were no issues with Ukraine.”
Miss flying? For $95, UIA offers on Sunday, March 7 a “Flight over Kyiv”. This 70-minute excursion features a view of Chornobyl nuclear plant from 900 meters and an overflight of Antonov’s airport at Gostomel, home of the world’s largest airplane, the An-225 Mriya. Off duty UIA pilots will mingle in the passenger cabin of the 100-seat Embraer 195, answering questions about flying over Kyiv. (Two on duty pilots are to stay in the cockpit). UIA proposes some sample questions: “Is it possible to fly without engines? What is turbulence and is it worth it to be afraid?”
Dnipro airport, Ukraine’s largest airport construction project of the year, will be rebuilt by Kyiv’s Altis-Construction LLC. With a $141 million bid for the three-year project, Altis beat six other companies in an open tender by the Infrastructure Ministry. The government has budgeted $50 million this year, almost 60% of all government airport work for the year. Altis is to build a new, 3.2 km runway, long enough for Boeing 777s. Separately, Oleksandr Yaroslavsky’s DCH group is building a new terminal. While work continues, Dnipro airport will keep operating, using the old Soviet-era terminal and concrete runway.
In a survey of 172 hotels across Ukraine, 23% predict business will return this year to 2019 levels and 57% predict a full return in 2022, reports the Ukrainian Hotel & Resort Association. Horwath HTL Hungary. Last year, two thirds of hotels cut room rates and hotel staff. More than 60% of hotel managers said their revenues shrank by more than 40%. To increase revenue, one quarter rented rooms as temporary offices and one third invested in digital marketing. Revenues grew at seven hotels – all rural retreats.
In January, hotel occupancies were: Lviv – 35%; Kharkiv – 31%; Kyiv – 23%; and Odessa – 19%. The average room rate in Kyiv was $57, according to Hotel Matrix, a web-based analytics program connected to 150 hotels nationwide.
Due to controls surrounding coronavirus, the world tourism industry lost $935 billion during the first 10 months of 2020, reports United Nations World Tourism Organization. To allow safe travel, the EU and Israel are working to introduce ‘vaccination passports.’
Despite corona controls, Ukraine’s Border Service registered 11.2 million exits by Ukrainians last year, potentially one quarter of the nation’s adult population. Top destinations were: Poland – 4 million; Hungary – 1.6 million; Russia – 1 million; Turkey — 965,000; Egypt – 730,000, Romania – 626,000; and Belarus – 496,000.
Ukraine received 3.4 million visits by foreigners. The top countries were Ukraine’s land neighbors: Moldova – 933,000; Belarus – 463,500; Russia – 390,000; Poland – 272,000; Romania – 229,000; and Hungary – 217,000. By air, the top countries were: Turkey – 149,000; Germany — 74,000; Israel – 57,000; and the United States – 42,000.
The number of Kyivstar subscribers who traveled abroad during the Dec. 24-Jan. 10 holiday season was down 81% yoy, reports Ilya Polshakov, New Business Director for Kyivstar, Ukraine’s largest mobile phone company. According to the company, the top five destinations were: Egypt, Turkey, Poland, Moldova and Romania. Dropped from the 2019 top five were two EU countries largely closed this winter to Ukrainian tourists: Germany and the Czech Republic and Germany. Polshakov studied the domestic and international travel patterns of 300,000 Kyivstar SIM card holders during the holiday period.
One year after coronavirus controls shut down air travel, the Infrastructure Ministry wants to give $18 million in tax and airport rent relief to the four Ukrainian airlines that carried evacuation flights last year. With jets flying largely empty one-way, a total of 170 evacuation flights were carried out by: Azur Air Ukraine, SkyUp, UIA and Windrose. are involved in.
On March 28, Mykolaiv airport wins back its lone scheduled flight, a Windrose Airlines flight to Kyiv. On March 1, Windrose resumes its charter flights from Mykolaiv to Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.
Taxi services got a boost yesterday when the Rada overwhelmingly approved a bill raising the penalty for drunk driving to $608. For repeat offenders, the fine is doubled to $1,216, licenses are suspended for three years and vehicles can be seized. The Rada also tripled the fine – to $60 – for drivers caught breaking the national speed limit of 50km per hour in populated areas.
McDonald’s Ukraine plans to expand a pilot program of restaurant waste recycling to all 96 restaurants in the country by the end of this year, the company announced yesterday. As part of a worldwide McDonald’s drive to switch from plastics to paper by 2025, the restaurants in Ukraine switched last year to paper cups for drinks and paper boxes for salads.
Kyiv’s 11th Regus office work space opens in Podil next month, reports the parent company, Luxembourg-based IWG Plc. Despite last year’s economic recession, total occupancy of the 10 existing Regus work spaces in Kyiv is 78%, Yulia Lytvynenko, Ukraine director of IWG, tells Interfax-Ukraine. Predicting that several large leases will be signed in coming weeks, she predicts that the overall occupancy will rise “to 83% by March.” The new Regus will occupy three floors of the new Volodymyrsky business center on Poshtova Square, near Poshtova Metro station and the Kyiv Funicular. Lytvynenko says: “The highlight, surely, will be beautiful views of the Dnipro River on the one hand and the [Volodymyrska Hill] park on the other.”
Kyiv’s Sikorsky Airport is to add 500 meters to its runway, allowing Wizz Air, its primary user, to use larger jets. By moving to Airbus 321 jets, Wizz Air says it can reduce frequencies and noise in the capital’s Zhuliany neighborhood. Wizz Air has ordered 190 Airbus 321s, which carry 30% more passengers than the Airbus 320s, currently the workhorse of Wizz Air.
Mayor Klitschko signed an order last week for design work to start on a 5-year upgrade of the airport. By expanding the runway to 2,810 meters, upgrading lights and adding an instrument landing system, the airport is to be certified to land jets in bad weather, avoiding diversions to Boryspil. Ukraine’s second busiest airport, after Boryspil, Sikorsky handled 2.6 million passengers in 2019. The City Council is mulling a second expansion: increasing the airport’s territory by 5%, to 278 hectares.
German and Biden Administration officials are discussing a package of measures that would allow the Russia-German gas line to open, but protect Ukraine’s security concerns, according to a Financial Times story headlined: “Germany aims for new deal with Washington on Nord Stream 2.” One proposal would empower Germany – or a German-American commission — to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia stopped sending minimum gas flows across Ukraine, increasing risk of an all-out Russian military attack.
“As Berlin seeks solutions, early signs from Washington indicate that the Biden administration is seeking to defuse the Nord Stream 2 debate,” the FT writes. “Two knowledgeable sources said [US Secretary of State Antony] Blinken has demonstrated a willingness to minimize sanctions.” Bloomberg later posted a matching story yesterday, headlined: “Germany Seeks Deal With Biden on Controversial Pipeline.” Bloomberg quotes Mark Helfrich, a Bundestag member from the ruling Christian Democratic Union, saying: “German, EU and U.S. officials are in talks about a package of measures which seeks to enhance Ukrainian stability and European energy sovereignty.”
A cold weather spike in electricity consumption, a lack of coal, and power plant breakdowns are forcing Eastern Ukraine to import electricity from Belarus and Russia and Western Ukraine to import electricity from Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, reports Ukrenergo, the national power distribution company. As of Monday, 19 thermal power plants were offline, pulling 6,270 MW out of the system, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, Ukrenergo’s chairman told a forum in Kyiv yesterday.
Electricity consumption last week was 6.5% more than forecast. But coal reserves fell to one third of required minimums. Thanks to imports, Kudrytskyi does not predict immediate power shortages.
DTEK Group, Ukraine’s largest private power producer, called on the government yesterday “to abolish price caps, which are an obstacle to the liberalization of the electricity market.” The company cited the example of the EU, where the cost of electricity production during peak loads can increase significantly. DTEK said: “We call on the government to intervene in the situation and immediately hold an anti-crisis headquarters with the participation of the Prime Minister.”
Ukraine’s Energoatom will soon stop sending spent nuclear fuel to Russia for processing and storage, Petro Kotin, the company head, said yesterday. In July, the Centralized Spent Fuel Storage Facility will open, he said. At the same, time, Energoatom is completing a 43 km rail connector to the facility, built by Holtec, a US company, near Chornobyl. Nuclear supplies about half of Ukraine’s electricity.
With demand strong for Ukrainian government bonds, the Finance Ministry depressed yields on all five hryvnia bonds sold at yesterday’s auction, the Ministry reported. With yields dropping from six to 44 basis points, the final range was 9.15% for 3-month bonds to 12.05% for 3-year bonds. The government sold hryvnia bonds for the equivalent of $213 million. Also posting results on Facebook, the Ministry says it sold $42 million worth of 2-year dollar bonds at 3.9% and €70.5 million worth of 1-year euro bonds at 2.5%.
Looking beyond the bland public statements surrounding Ukraine’s recent suspension of talks with the IMF, Anders Aslund, a veteran IMF observer, writes in an Atlantic Council blog: “No agreement was concluded between the IMF and the Ukrainian government recently because they fundamentally disagree about pretty much everything.” Offering the only way forward, Aslund writes that President Zelenskiy “urgently needs to refocus on the anti-corruption messages that enabled him to win landslide election victories in the presidential and parliamentary votes of 2019.” Without real actions, he writes, the IMF “has no compulsion to offer credits to the dishonest.”
DiDi, China’s giant online taxi service, plans to launch this year in Ukraine, reports AIN.ua news site. With 550 million users, tens of millions of users and billions of dollars in revenues, DiDi entered Russia last year, a first step in a plan to expand across Eastern Europe. Last week, DiDi posted on the GRC job search website that is looking for a manager to launch in Ukraine.
DiDi will compete with Bolt, Uber and Uklon for Ukraine’s taxi market, estimated by Uklon at $800 million a year. Uber, the first mover in Ukraine, now operates in seven Ukrainian cities and claims that 4.3 million Ukrainians have downloaded its mobile app. Uklon operates in 19 cities and claims nearly 3 million users. Bolt operates in 10 cities and claims 3 million users.
Concorde Capital’s Evgeniya Akhtyrko noted that the Finance Ministry report was a requirement for the IMF program that started last June. She writes: “It was obvious that the Zelenskiy administration used the project of big road building as a tool for maintaining its popularity. This misuse of public funds also undermines the trust of Ukraine’s Western partners, which were involved in disbursing substantial funds for COVID-related needs in Ukraine…the reported information will be taken into account in the IMF’s decision-making on financial assistance to Ukraine.”
NASA has awarded a $93 million contract to Firefly Aerospace Inc. to deliver 10 payloads to the Moon’s Mare Crisium in 2023, the Ukraine-originated company reports from its headquarters near Austin, Texas. Founded by Ukrainian-American Max Polyakov, Firefly has almost half of its workforce of 330 in Dnipro. Under the contract, a Firefly rocket and its Blue Ghost Lunar Lander will deliver NASA and 50 kg of commercial cargo to the Crisium basin. Data gathered from this mission is to pave the way for a 2024 manned mission to the area. Firefly also is participating in this mission, called Artemis.
Firefly has several other contracts with the US space agency. In December, NASA reported that Firefly signed a $9.8 million contract to launch satellites for space research. In addition, Firefly is developing its BETA rocket to launch satellites into low Earth orbits.
With snow and sub-freezing temperatures expected through this weekend, 15 power units in Ukraine are shut down for lack of fuel or for emergency repairs, warned Andriy Gerus, Chair of the Rada Committee on Energy and Housing and Communal Services. As of noon, nine were under repair and six were out of fuel, he posted on Telegram. He wrote: “Despite the difficulties caused by the inoperative condition of some power units, Ukrenergo’s dispatchers balance the power system, all consumers have a stable and uninterrupted supply of electricity.”
January’s average gas price was 23.5% higher than December’s price, according to State Customs Service numbers. In face of the price hike, the government has capped prices through March 31 at the January average price — $250 per 1,000 cubic meters. The December price was 11% higher than the November price.
‘Near-shoring’ – or bringing production capacity closer to the EU may boost investment into Ukrainian from European manufacturers hurt last year when supply lines were cut by coronavirus restrictions, Sergiy Tsivkach, head of the state’s UkraineInvest, told Bloomberg in a story headlined: “Supply Chain Shakeup After Virus has Ukraine Eyeing Investments.” Starting this year, Tsivkach aims to attract $7.7 billion. Last year, for the first time in five years, Ukraine had a net outflow of foreign investment — $420 million, according to the National Bank of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s coffee imports increased by 63% in the last five years, hitting almost 50,000 tons in 2020, reports the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club. Of the $166 million business, Ukraine imports only 16% from producer countries – Vietnam and Brazil. The rest comes from intermediary countries, notably Poland, Italy and Germany. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, coffee consumption in Ukraine increased six-fold since 2000, hitting 1.2 kilo per person in 2018.
Projects in the pipeline include $1.1 billion of investments in mining and processing by Canada’s Black Iron Inc. and a €200 million wood products facility to be built by Austria’s Kronospan. Tsivkach said Belgian mattress-fabric maker Monks International and Danish furniture producer Hjort Knudsen also are building plants in Ukraine.
Coronavirus vaccinations start next week in Ukraine, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov tells Ukraina 24 TV. Initially, the Ministry to draw on a small initial shipment of 117,000 doses of U.S.-made Pfizer-BioNTec obtained under the global COVAX initiative.
In the pipeline are 25 million doses, enough for one third of Ukraine’s 37 million people to get the requisite two shots by the end of this year:
This month, the first 50 of 500 mobile vaccination teams are to start working, Prime Minister Shmyhal told the Cabinet last week. In addition, he said, health workers are preparing 1,500 vaccination rooms across the nation and 50 vaccination centers in big cities.
“The sooner we get the vaccines, the faster we will overcome the pandemic in Ukraine,” President Zelenskiy said Friday on announcing the 12 million Indian-made vaccines. “I know that the Cabinet of Ministers is working thoroughly to develop a website that will help Ukrainians register for vaccination easily and conveniently.”
Ukraine’s daily rate of detected cases dropped roughly in half over the last month – from 6-9,000 at the start January, to 3-5,000 cases a day last week. To date, 1.2 million Ukrainians, or 3% of the population are known to have contracted the virus. To date, 23,597 have died, making for a fatality rate of 2%. People aged 60 and over accounted for 84% of fatalities, the Health Ministry reports. In the year since the pandemic hit Ukraine, almost 10 million tests have been performed.
Vaccinations of soldiers start at the end of this month, says Serhiy Khalik, acting commander of Medical Forces of the Armed Forces. To date, 15,005 members of the military are known to have contracted the virus, or 6% of the 250,000 in total. Only 43 have died.
Almost half of Ukrainians have antibodies to Covid-19, Natalia Vinohrad, head of Epidemiology at Lviv National Medical University, told Savik Shuster’s ‘Freedom of Speech’ TV program. “Despite the fact that a lot of people say that they have not been sick with coronavirus and have not experienced any similar symptoms, 43% of the population of Ukraine has antibodies,” she said Jan. 29.
Only 43% of respondents to a poll in mid-January said they would take the vaccine, even if free. If they had to pay, only 39% told Rating Group that they would buy the vaccine. Commercial sales of vaccines are expected to only start this summer.
About one third of $2.8 billion Covid-19 Fighting Fund went to build roads last year, the Finance Ministry reports. About 23% went to the Health Ministry. The rest went to unemployment benefits, insurance payments and aid to small businesses.
Russia’s Gazprom resumes construction of Nord Stream 2 this week, aiming to complete work in Danish waters by the end of May and in Germany waters by the end of June, reported Bloomberg, citing an official work schedule seen by a Bloomberg reporter. Russia’s pipe laying vessel, the Fortuna, is already in the Baltic, off Rostock, reported shipfinder.com. Germany’s Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency has extended the permit for laying the gas pipe on the Baltic sea bed.
Zurich Insurance Group AG has become the latest European company to pull out of the controversial Russia-Germany pipeline project, bowing to US sanctions, reports Bloomberg in a separate story. Presumably a Russian company will pick up the construction insurance that was provided by Zurich. In face of stepped-up US sanctions, Norway’s Det Norske Veritas Holding AS, a certification company, and Denmark’s engineering firm Rambøll cut ties with the project.
Foreign holdings of Ukrainian bonds ticked up 3.8% in the first two auctions of 2021, hitting UAH 87.6 billion, or $3.1 billion. Foreigners now hold 8.75% of the Ukrainian government bond market, according to Central Bank figures. The growth comes after a gradual 27.1% fall during the first 11 months of 2020. By contrast in 2019, foreign investment in the bonds increased 18-fold, ending the year at UAH 115.8 billion.
Air traffic in and out of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, dropped by 51% last year, slightly better than the nationwide drop of 64%, reported the Center for Transportation Strategies. Worldwide, passenger traffic dropped by 60%, hitting the level of 2003, International Civil Aviation Organization reports in a study headlined: “2020 passenger totals drop 60 percent as COVID-19 assault on international mobility continues.” For Ukrainian travel agencies, sales volumes fell by 70%, Pavel Grigorash, executive director of the national Association of Travel Agencies, tells Economic Truth website.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces plan to order up to eight new An-74 multipurpose transport jets to start replacing its aging An-26 fleet, Minister for Strategic Industries Oleh Uruskiy writes on Facebook. The orders would go to Kharkiv State Aircraft Production Enterprise, a manufacturer that has not completed a plane since 2014. However, the factory has six An-74s on its assembly lines, about 70-90% complete, reports Defence Blog. Four planes would go to Ukraine’s Air Force for transport and four would to the Navy for maritime patrol. Between 1985 and 2004, the factory made 62 An-74s. The need to upgrade Ukraine’s military transport became clear last September when a 43-year-old An-26 crashed near Kharkiv, killing 26 Air Force cadets and instructors.
Epicenter K, Ukraine’s largest retailer, plans to invest $1.2 billion through the end of next year, Petro Mykhailyshyn, Director General of the group, said Thursday at a press conference at Interfax-Ukraine. To help finance the investment, more than triple the amount invested in 2019, the company plans to raise a loan from ING, the Dutch bank. Some of the loan would be used to buy equipment from Vanderlande, the Dutch logistics automation company. Atradius, the Dutch trade insurance company, would provide cover.
Epicenter, Ukraine’s version of Home Depot, has 62 hypermarkets with a total area of over 1 million square meters nationwide. Recently, the company has invested in farming and logistics. Mykhailyshyn told reporters: “We hope and intend this year to make an unprecedented investment in the development of all segments of our company, all businesses, and this is construction activities, the agricultural sector, the production of ceramic tiles and other building materials, as well as the development of logistics fulfillment centers.”
To reach Ukraine’s smaller cities, Epicenter is building up to 100 smaller format stores – retail spaces with 4-6,000 square meters, Mikhailishin told Interfax-Ukraine in an interview. Aiming at the hundreds of small cities with 10-15,000 inhabitants, Mikhailishin said: “We are developing an online system with a large logistics infrastructure, which will provide residents not only of regional centers, but also villages.”
Although attendance at shopping malls dropped by 26% yoy last year, overall retail sales were up 7.6% for the first 11 months of 2020, reports NAI Ukraine, the commercial real estate consulting company. Alarmed by the coronavirus quarantine controls, many shopping center developers pushed off openings to 2021: stage two of the Blockbuster Mall – 55,000 square meters; Ocean Mall – 99,000; the stage two of April – 47,000; and White Lines – 21,000. With these four expansions alone – 222,000 square meters – rents will remain soft and the retail vacancy rate is expected to rise above its current level of 10%, NAI predicts in its study.
Online orders through OLX Delivery, one of Ukraine’s largest internet shopping platforms, jumped for the for the period Dec. 9 to Jan 13, compared to last year, the company’s analytical service reported Friday. Orders for men’s clothing doubled, while the check remained about the same — $20. Orders for men’s shoes were up 94%, for electronic components up 74%, and for smartphones up 63%.
Starting this week, service personnel in all stores, restaurants, cafes, pharmacies, and gas stations, must first address customers in Ukrainian. Customers are not obligated to use Ukrainian and can communicate in any language they want, including Russian or English. If a business repeatedly refuses to greet customers in Ukrainian, it will be subject to a $200 fine.
Facing complaints about coronavirus vaccine profiteering and delays, Ukraine’s Health Ministry signed a contract last week with Crown Agents, a British international development company, to buy the Chinese Sinovac Biotech vaccine. Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said that vaccinations will start in the middle of February, two months after the US and UK. The first 350,000 to be vaccinated will be: doctors and nurses working with Covid patients, ATO soldiers and workers at elderly homes.
In March, the mass vaccination of 2.5 million Ukrainians is to start. Later in the spring, people will be able to buy vaccinations – a window for foreigners to get vaccinated here. Minister Stepanov tells Ukraina 24 TV that people who are vaccinated will get ‘passports’ – certificates to facilitate foreign travel. Currently, about 7,000 new Covid cases are reported daily in Ukraine, about half the level of six weeks ago. The currently heightened level of quarantine is to ease this Sunday at midnight.
Starting tomorrow, all airline passengers traveling to the US, including US citizens, must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19. Airlines must deny boarding to passengers who do not meet these requirements. Details can be found on this US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page.
In one step, 100,000 small businesses have downloaded the ‘cash register in a smart phone’ app since its debut August 1, 2020 Getmantsev said. As a result, there have been 100 million sales receipts using this technology. The protests in the last two weeks by small businesses of the Save FOP movement, he charges, are led by people who want to abolish cash registers altogether.
Legalized gambling will bring in $270 million in new tax revenues in 2021, Hetmantsev predicted in the Radio Svoboda interview. Gambling in high-end hotel casinos is to start in Ukraine next year.
Ukrainian Insurance Group, a unit of Vienna Insurance Group, has paid $1.3 million for a cargo of wheat destroyed on August 4 in the massive port explosion in Beirut. The cargo was insured against all risks, the company said.
In 2021, Ukraine’s air travel will only rebound to half the level of 2019, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krikliy estimated in a year end interview with Channel 24. The 2019 level 25 million passengers will only be attained in 2023, he predicts.
President Zelenskiy signed on Friday the national budget for 2021. Expenditures are to be $46.5 billion and revenues are $38.2 billion. The deficit of $8.3 billion is to be 5.5% of GDP, forecast at $150 billion. For the Big Construction roads program, $5.3 billion is to be spent.
Wizz Air plans to fly from Vinnytsia, its sixth Ukrainian city, Vinnytsia Mayor, Serhiy Morgunov, told Avianews. He said: “We are talking about the potential opening of flights from Vinnitsa to Berlin, Budapest, Vienna and Warsaw.” The Budapest-based discount carrier currently flies from Kyiv Sikorsky, Kharkiv, Lviv, Odesa and Zaporizhia.