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Friday, April 30, 2021
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Editor’s Note:  A reporter friend of mine once wrote a book about crime in the Southern US called: “All Over But the Shoutin’.” That’s where we are with the Naftogaz CEO switch. There were stern tweets and angry press releases. There will be a lawsuit or two. The IMF will chastise. But much indignation will dissipate over the upcoming 10-day holiday. Yuriy Vitrenko now is in charge. Let’s see where he goes with it. On a personal note, I fly Sunday to the US to get my house in order for summer rentals. Over the next week, my colleague Li Luo will be reporting and writing the UBN. I will be back in print on May 11. In the meantime, enjoy Orthodox Easter and the May holidays! With Best Regards Jim Brooke

Friday, April 30, 2021
Passenger traffic was down by one third during the first quarter,

compared to January-March of 2020, the State Statistics Service reports. The number of rides taken by passengers was down 30.5%, to 624 million. The number of passenger kilometers was down 35%, to 12.3 billion.

Friday, April 30, 2021
Lviv has the highest average salary in Ukraine,

 the hryvnia equivalent of $1,130 a month, according to a survey of Ukraine’s largest cities by grc.ua, a personnel portal. Lviv presumably edged out Kyiv, the traditional leader, due to the high concentration of IT jobs and wage competition with nearby Poland. Of the five cities, the lowest average monthly wage was in Dnipro — $692.

Friday, April 30, 2021
More than 300,000 Russian soldiers, nearly one-third of the nation’s 1 million member military, took part in exercises near Ukraine this month

, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, said in a public briefing yesterday. He said drills involved 35,000 combat vehicles, 900 aircraft and 180 navy ships. Previous estimates put the Russian troop number at 100,000. Col. Gen. Alexander Zhuravlev, commander of Russia’s Western Military District, reported most of his troops are back at their garrisons, with one trainload of troops still on its way home.

Friday, April 30, 2021
With Russia’s Rosneft cutting diesel supplies to Ukraine, traders plan to increase diesel imports in May from Belarus, Lithuania, Hungary and Turkey,

 Ukraine’s Economy Ministry reports after meeting with “key stakeholders of the oil and gas market.” Yesterday, two companies won tenders to supply diesel to Ukrzaliznytsia. In addition to using diesel to power half of its locomotives, the state railroad has 1,300 tanker cars, enough to move about one third of Ukraine’s annual imports of 7 million tons.

Friday, April 30, 2021
Australia’s Volt Resources Limited is paying $7.6 million to buy control of Ukraine’s Zavalivsky Graphite LLC, one of the 10 largest producers of natural graphite in the world.

 Volt says it is buying 70% of the company to become a producer of graphite for li-ion batteries. With a production capacity of 30,000 tons a year, Zavalivsky Graphite has been mining the deposit in Kirovohrad since 1934.

Friday, April 30, 2021
Executives from Bechtel, the largest American construction company, were briefed yesterday by Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krikliy about public private partnerships to build highways in Ukraine.

“We plan to attract in the medium term more than $9 billion in private investment to restore and maintain more than 4,500 kilometers of state roads,” Krikliy said of the program developed by the World Bank and Ukravtodor, the highway agency. Attending for Bechtel were: Justin Sieberell, regional president for Europe and Middle East, and Andrew Patterson, global manager for business development.

Friday, April 30, 2021
Ukraine increased its exports to China during the first two months of this year by 44% yoy,

 Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s Trade Representative, said after meeting with China’s ambassador Fan Xiangong. Overall, Ukraine’s trade rose 18%, to $2.5 billion, with China, the nation’s largest trading partner. One focus of the meeting was to expand the access of Ukrainian food product to the Chinese market. Food accounts for 53% of Ukraine’s exports to China, reports Ukraine’s Economy Ministry.

Friday, April 30, 2021
This spring’s cool, wet weather will boost grain harvests by 14.5% and exports by 28%,

the Ukrainian Grain Association predicted yesterday. In reality, this would return Ukraine to the bumper year of 2019/2020. Looking ahead, corn exports are to jump 27% in the coming marketing year, to 30 million tons. Wheat exports are to increase by 37%, to 21 million tons. The sunflower harvest is to increase by 28%, to 16.5 million tons, slightly more than the 2019/2020 level.

Friday, April 30, 2021
Ukroboronprom, the defense industry conglomerate, has reorganized its structure to eliminate Mustafa Nayem,

the reformer who worked for two years as Deputy General Director for Asset Management. “Today is my last day at Ukroboronprom,” Nayem wrote yesterday on Facebook. Of his work, he wrote: “Our team has moved the company closer to corporatization than anyone before us. We completed the inventory of all property, increased revenues from the sale of non-core assets by almost one third, tripled the processing of applications for property transactions, and transferred 17 companies to the State Property Fund.”

Friday, April 30, 2021
President Zelenskiy yesterday signed a law allowing resumption of sales of large state companies,

a privatization process that was suspended one year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic. All sales are to go through electronic auctions. Zelenskiy said: ““Despite the coronavirus crisis, our goal of privatizing state-owned enterprises, which are often managed extremely inefficient and breeding grounds for corruption, remains unchanged.”

Friday, April 30, 2021
The Rada moved forward yesterday,

appointing Herman Halushchenko as Energy Minister, succeeding Vitrenko, who had held the job in an acting capacity for four months. For the last year, Halushchenko served as vice president of Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company.

Friday, April 30, 2021
“I do not think that the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers was legitimate,” Kobolyev told Interfax Ukraine.

“I believe that this decision puts an end to corporate reform. It is important not only for Naftogaz or for me personally, it is important for the entire corporate governance system that has been built over the past seven years.” In a Facebook post, Kobolyev said he left his office keys for Vitrenko to avoid “a circus” but intimated that he plans to appeal his dismissal.

Friday, April 30, 2021
Firing by the Cabinet “contradicts the requirements of Ukrainian law,

” reads a letter signed yesterday by members of the Naftogaz Supervisory Board. Noting that the Board has power over personnel decisions, the letter charges that the Cabinet’s move “seriously jeopardizes the business continuity of the Naftogaz Group, as well as the implementation of the corporate governance reform in the public sector of Ukraine’s economy.” Written during the Board’s 2-day suspension, the letter is signed by Clare Spottiswoode as “Ex-Chair of the Supervisory Board.”

Friday, April 30, 2021
Dragon Capital wrote in a note:

 “This breach of corporate-governance standards is likely to create a new point of tensions with international financial institutions and Ukraine’s other Western partners…Naftogaz is set to experience a turbulent period, as the new CEO is likely to move to rid the management team of Kobolev allies.”

Friday, April 30, 2021
Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy wrote:

“Vitrenko could be at least as efficient at the position of Naftogaz CEO as Kobolyev was, so there is no risk to Naftogaz operations with the top management replacement.”

Friday, April 30, 2021
Few complaints were aired yesterday about Vitrenko, widely seen as Western-oriented reformer.
Friday, April 30, 2021
The legal maneuver used to fire the CEO of Naftogaz raises doubts about Ukraine’s commitment to shield state companies from interference by politicians.

That was the fear expressed yesterday by a host of Ukraine-watchers: the State Department spokesman i Washington, the G7 Ambassadors in Kyiv, the speaker of the Rada, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine. To fire Andriy Kobolyev one year into his 4-year term, the Cabinet of Ministers resorted to suspending the Naftogaz Supervisory Board for two days, and then switching Kobolyev for his former deputy, Yuriy Vitrenko.

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