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Monday, November 30

Corona Lockdown is ‘90%’ Sure for December...Nord Stream 2 Gas Line Work Resumes This Weekend...Canada’s Vermilion Pulls out of JV With Naftogaz...Thanks to Global Warming, Dnipro Shipping Season Gets a One-Month Extension
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

In December, “the probability of a complete coronavirus lockdown is 90%,” David Arakhamia, head of the ruling Servant of the People Party in the Rada, said on Ukraina TV’s Segodnya show Saturday. In contrast to last spring’s general shutdown, this would be a ‘smart’ lockdown he said, intimating that the Kyiv metro and many public services would work until Dec. 25, the western Christmas, now an official holiday in Ukraine.

In preparation for a lockdown, a law to give financial aid to 2 million salaried workers hit by coronavirus controls goes into effect next week, Arakhamia told reporters on Saturday. These one time payments are to go up to $280 per person. The overall budget will be about $500 million, Yulia Kovaliv, the President’s deputy chief of staff said Thursday night on 1+1 TV’s Right to Power show.

About 10% of Ukraine’s small and medium businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy due to corona controls, Dafina Gercheva, resident representative of the United Nations Development Program, estimates in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine. By the end of December, the corona controls and recession will have put more than 9 million people – one quarter of Ukraine’s population — in financial distress, the UNDP predicts.

New coronavirus infections doubled in November, hitting an average of 16,250 a day on Friday and Saturday. In Kyiv, the number of new cases hit a record 1,739, Mayor Klitschko said Saturday. In Lviv, two patients, one aged 61 and the other 66, died Friday after a power outage knocked out their ventilators for one hour. Over the last eight months, 12,093 deaths are attributed to Covid-19. Immunologist Andrii Volyanskyi predicts on Facebook that another 25,000 Ukrainians will die of Covid over the next four months, the traditional peak flu season.

Betting that online sales will keep surging, Allo Group, the consumer electronics retailer, is launching its own nationwide delivery service, Allo Express in Ukraine. Citing “today’s realities,” Allo CEO Maksym Raskin said the company decided to “to invest in the creation of our own postal operator.” The package delivery service will have desks in each of Allo’s 140 stores in Ukraine.

Work on laying Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline could resume this weekend in the Baltic Sea waters of Germany, near the Adlergrund shoal, reports Deutsche Welle. The local Stralsund Waterway Authority is advising ships to be careful when navigating the area starting Saturday. Meanwhile, Nord Stream 2 AG, gas pipeline company, says: “We plan to resume pipe-laying work using a vessel with anchor positioning in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Germany this year.” With the US Congress preparing more sanctions against companies working on the $11 billion project, Norway’s DNV GL announced it will stop verifying services for ships and equipment used to build Nord Stream 2.

Canada’s Vermilion Energy has backed out of two production sharing agreements it won last year with Naftogaz, reports OilPoint, citing Ukraine’s state oil and gas company. The Calgary-based company “has decided not to participate in the projects due to significant reductions in gas and oil prices compared to 2019, the coronavirus pandemic and the global economic downturn,” Naftogaz said referring to the two sites, Balaklia and Ivanovo. Instead, Naftogaz will go it alone, investing $125 over the next five years to conduct 3D seismic tests and to drill 12 exploration wells.

Undeterred by this setback, Naftogaz is open to working with a foreign company, particularly Romanian, to develop the Dolphin block, in the Black Sea near the Danube delta and Romania’s maritime border. Working jointly with Romania to develop the shelf may be “more economically attractive” for Ukraine, and would create better security since Romania is a NATO member, Lana Zerkal, adviser to the Naftogaz CEO, said Friday at an online briefing. However, Exxon Mobil has been mulling selling its 50% stake in Romania’s Neptun Deep offshore project. Since 2008, it has shared this Black Sea block with Romania’s OMV Petrom, which is majority-controlled by Austria’s OMV.

But this year’s slump in oil and gas prices makes Ukraine unattractive to oil and gas producers, say experts interviewed by UNIAN. “I honestly think that the chances of attracting serious Western investors are minimal,” Gennadiy Kobal, founder of EXPRO Consulting, told the news agency Friday. “The record decline in gas prices has led to the fact that oil and gas companies have lost a significant part of their capitalization.”

Regarding the Dolphin block, Vitaly Radchenko, partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, said: “We have talked with many normal real, producing, foreign oil and gas investors. We worked with them to get them interested in the Black Sea shelf. The territory is viewed as controversial and dangerous. None of the real investors will come there to drill, because it could end up in a conflict with Russia. Therefore, giving the shelf for research to the state gas company is a logical decision.”

With winter temperatures increasingly mild, the Dnipro River shipping season is being extended for one extra month – to the end of December. Originally, the river’s six locks were to start closing in a north-south sequence in mid-November. But shippers, notably Nibulon, lobbied for an extended season, noting that last year serious ice did not start forming on the river until January. Under the direction of the State Maritime and River Transport Service, closing the river involves pulling out hundreds of buoys.

The $15 billion Istanbul Canal, an artificial alternative to the Bosporus, has reached the tender stage, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday. Expected to take a decade to dig, the 500-meter wide canal would allow liquefied natural gas cargo ships to enter the Black Sea for the first time. Further weakening Russia’s position in the Black Sea, the canal would not be subject to the Montreux Convention. This 1936 agreement places limits on the size and number of non-Black Sea navy ships allow to pass through the Bosporus.

Prime Minister Shmygal started a two-day visit to Turkey yesterday with a meeting with Turkish business executives in Istanbul. Appealing for Turkish investment, he said: “We have ambitious plans to build and renovate our infrastructure, including roads, bridges, energy and medical infrastructure, in other areas – water supply, sewerage, garbage recycling. Turkish companies have successful experience in these areas.” Today, he meets with government leaders in Ankara to discuss military and diplomatic cooperation. Leading a delegation of two ministers and two deputy ministers, Shmygal is flying in a Ukrainian An-148 regional jet. Turkey is interested in producing medium range military transports with Antonov.

Ukraine plans to purchase five more Turkish-made Bayraktar Tactical Block 2 unmanned aerial vehicles next year, Turkish media report. Last month, Azerbaijan used these armed drones in its successful war with Russia-backed Armenia. Signaling a closer partnership with Turkey, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency Friday: “Ukraine, looks at the Nagorno-Karabakh issue from the perspective of international law. Our position is very clear. We are on the same page with Turkey.” In the second half of December, the foreign ministers and the defense ministers of Turkey and Ukraine are to meet in Kyiv in a ‘2+2 format’ – a sign of close bilateral ties.

Editor’s Note: As readership of the Ukraine Business News grows day by day, we will invest in December to upgrade the UBN website. Searching the archive will be faster and easier. And after English, Ukrainian, Russian, German and French, we will add a mystery sixth language. Stay tuned – and tell your friends to sign up! With Best Regards, Jim Brooke

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Friday, November 27

As Covid Beds Fill Up, Officials Debate December Lockdown...Finance Ministry Says It Agrees with IMF on 2021 Budget...Judges Cost Ukraine Billions in Soft Loans...Europe’s Green Bond Vogue Reaches Ukraine...Mobile Internet Planned for Road and Rail
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

With 76% of coronavirus unit beds occupied in Ukraine, authorities fear the country cannot make it to the Christmas holidays without imposing a major lockdown. One option would be to impose a lockdown after schools let out in three weeks for the Christmas break, on Friday afternoon Dec. 18. Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s powerful Interior Minister, argues for an earlier, faster lockdown. “We need to introduce a lockdown as soon as possible, for three to four weeks,” he said on Ukraine 24 TV. “We are talking about really systemic, huge risks to our people’s health.”

Driving the urgency are record numbers. Yesterday, the reported daily toll of new infections hit 15,331 and the daily death toll hit 225. New infections in Kyiv yesterday hit 1,399.  The Health Ministry reports that of the nation’s 57,446 hospital beds for Covid patients, only 13,653, or 24% are free. Last month, President Zelenskiy drew the lockdown red line at 9,500 new cases a day. Days later, he moved the line to 15,000 daily cases. At a minimum, the government is expected to extend the weekend lockdowns. They were to end after this weekend.

The Finance Ministry says it has reached agreement with the IMF on the size of Ukraine’s 2021 budget deficit. By postponing an increase in the minimum wage to the end of next year and taking other measures, the Ministry cut $1 billion off the $47 billion budget, reducing the proposed deficit from 6% to 5.5%. The budget must be approved in December. To restart the IMF agreement, the Rada has to pass laws to restore and protect anti-corruption agencies.

Ukraine has only received half of $6 billion international funding expected for this year, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said last night on the Right to Power talk show. Alluding to foot dragging by the Rada and obstructionism by the Constitutional Court, he blamed “non-adoption of laws in time, and because of decisions of judges.”

President Zelenskiy is about to sign a bill that would provide state guarantees for ‘green bonds’ to help pay Ukrenergo’s overdue debt to solar and wind producers, Acting Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko told reporters yesterday. With the overdue debt approaching $1 billion, the government might launch $400 million worth of green bonds, he said. Later in the day, a Finance Ministry investor relations manager Alla Danylchuk emailed Bloomberg, saying the Finance Ministry has no plans to issue green bonds.

The government plans to close about half of the nation’s 33 state-owned coal mines during this decade, Deputy Energy Minister Maxim Nemchinov said yesterday at the presentation of a presentation of the results of a poll of residents of coal mining towns. The most economically promising mines are around Vuhledar, a Donetsk area which produces both anthracite and bituminous coals. The Ministry is studying British and German experiences with closing mines and retraining and often relocating miners. Last year, the ministry changed its name from Ministry of Energy and Coal Mining to Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Ukrzaliznytsia has approved a framework agreement to allow private locomotives to operate on UZ tracks. The signing of the first contract with a company, Ukrainian Locomotive Construction Company LLC, should happen “as soon as possible,” Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krykliy said yesterday. Based in Lviv, Ukrainian Locomotive plans to haul freight on nine sections of track in Western Ukraine. The Ministry’s press service said: “Interest from the market was significant.” Private freight railroads already operate in all of Ukraine’s EU neighbors – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.

The Digital Transformation Ministry has set these targets for extending high speed mobile internet across the country: accessible to 90% of the population by July 1, 2021; all international highways by Jan. 1, 2023; and all national roads by July 1, 2024. Digital Minister Mikhail Fedorov tells reporters in Kyiv: “Next year we want to focus on the coverage of roads and strategic highways.”

For rail travel, Vodaphone Ukraine is conducting a pilot project with the 35 km Boryspil Airport Express to determine cost for high speed internet coverage on Ukraine’s main rail lines. With about 10,000 km of main lines to cover and 3,000 passenger cars to equip with internet, public investment will have to complement investments by the three mobile operators, Olga Ustinova, general director of Vodafone Ukraine, told reporters Tuesday. For road and rail, she said, Ukraine’s three mobile providers – lifecell, Kyivstar and Vodaphone – plan to finance about one third of the mobile internet cost.

With domestic tourism the trend, Ukrzaliznytsia seeks to win at least half of all tourists, luring them out of cars and buses. To attract riders, the state railroad has reduced prices of first class tickets and created an easier, online system for redeeming tickets before departure dates, Volodomyr Zhmak, UZ’s new CEO, told tour operators yesterday. Aiming at the highest end, the railroad is renovating for public charters the VIP cars that once were the preserve of the Communist Party elite. Through October, the number of train tickets sold in Ukraine dropped by 56% yoy, to 57.5 million.

In a boost for Carpathian tourism, Ukravtodor inaugurates tomorrow 45 km of mountain road to Synevyr National Park. Essentially opening up the west entrance to the park to tourists from Lviv, the rebuilt road crosses two mountain passes and over 19 restored bridges. With a cost of $24 million, the project was carried out by Turkey’s Onur Construction International. The state highway agency reports that 255 km of roads were rebuilt in Zakarpattia this year, one of the regional leaders for road repair this year.

Parkovy, central Kyiv’s largest convention and exhibition center, is now officially owned by Lyubov Efimova, mother of Ukrainian MP Maxim Efimov. Since opening in 2013, Parkovy has become a popular place for conferences. It has 22,000 square meters, a high end restaurant, underground parking and its own diesel power station. In Feb. 2019, the Maxim Yefimov, then an MP with the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, confirmed that that the official owner of the facility was his mother, a US resident. Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine fine her last week $5,000 for not obtaining permission in advance to own 100% of the complex.

Iran plans to pay €200 million in compensation to families of the 176 victims of the Jan. 8 shootdown of the UIA passenger over Tehran, reports Al-Monitor news site. The money will come from the National Development Fund of Iran, not from the budget of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. An anti-aircraft unit of the Revolutionary Guards shot down the plane with two land to air missiles.

Betting that vaccines will tame Covid, SkyUp Airlines is planning a summer flight schedule of more than 60 routes from 21 countries. Betting also on the renaissance of Ukraine’s regional airports, half of the flights will be from four airports far from its base at Kyiv Boryspil. From Kharkiv, Lviv, Odesa and Zaporizhia, SkyUp will fly to Georgia, Greece, Czech Republic and Italy. From Boyspil and several of the regional airports, SkyUp will fly to: Italy, France, Greece, Czech Republic, Georgia, Spain, Bulgaria, Armenia, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Portugal, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Jordan, Sweden, Serbia, the Netherlands and Slovakia.

Editor’s Note: For Thanksgiving, an American friend and I went yesterday to the matinee showing of Atlantida, Ukraine’s new award-winning movie. Zhovten, my old friend, was scarier than the war movie. The cinema in Kyiv’s crowded Podil neighborhood was offering 17 films. But its empty café looked like an Edward Hopper painting. Soda and snack windows were deserted. Our screening, of an English subtitled version, drew seven moviegoers, each wearing a mask. All but couples sat warily in alternate seats. I hope Zhovten, which was rebuilt after a devastating fire, can survive the nuclear cold of this coming winter. This week, Dmytro Derkach, co-owner of Planeta Kino, assessed the prospects of a coronavirus Christmas and said he will probably close the chain and fire 500 employees. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke

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Thursday, November 26

Naftogaz Wins No Tender Deal to Develop Black Sea Gas Field...Ukraine Now is Key Player in Eastern Europe Gas Market...EU Has Big Hydrogen Plans for Ukraine...Biden Is Expected to Block Nord Stream 2...Millions of Ukrainians Shop Online for ‘Black Friday’
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 government yesterday granted Naftogaz the right to develop a massive Black Sea gas block without a tender. The Dolphin block, near Ukraine’s portion of the Danube river delta, is believed to hold at least 1 trillion cubic meters of gas – more than double the big Black Sea find announced recently by Turkey. “This means the possibility of producing up to 10 billion cubic meters per year,” Ukraine’s state oil and gas company announced on Facebook. In recent years, Ukraine has imported 11 to 14 billion cubic meters a year.

Seismic work could involve $40 million of investments in the first year, Naftogaz said on Facebook. “This means the possibility of attracting international investors, and at the same time – on the best terms for Ukraine,” the company wrote yesterday. Last month, Naftogaz unexpectedly pulled out of a $500 million Eurobond sale despite it being oversubscribed. Yesterday’s no tender decision by the Cabinet of Ministers cuts permitting delays. “The company will be able to start developing the shelf immediately after the adoption of the normative act,” Roman Abramovsky, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, said at the Cabinet meeting.

Last year, an American company, Trident Acquisitions, won a competitive tender to develop the offshore block. The incoming Zelenskiy government refused to accept the results of this ‘Poroshenko tender.’ The issue languished for one year. Last night, Ilya Ponomarev, CEO of Trident, emailed the UBN: “This story has ended as we have predicted – no major [foreign energy companies], just no one showed up. So, the government threw our $1 billion offer out of the window. [Now it] will spend taxpayers money in Naftogaz to develop this difficult project in very uncertain times, assuming all risks themselves.”

Ukraine has become a key player in the EU natural gas market, storing 10 billion cubic meters of gas this fall for gas traders. With the European heating starting last month, Ukraine, for the first time in history, started re-exported stored gas to EU countries. “A significant milestone for the gas market is the start of the re-export of gas that was previously imported to Ukraine from the EU,” Sergei Makogon, CEO of the Operator of the Gas Transportation System of Ukraine, writes on Facebook. “Previously, there was only transit and import.” Integrating Ukraine into the regional gas system are: duty free gas storage, duty free short haul gas transportation through Ukraine, and new reverse flow gas pipelines.

The “U” factor: Ukraine’s growing role in Europe’s natural gas market,” headlines a 1,600-word article in S&P Global Platts. This year “access to both Ukrainian storage and inbound transport capacity resulted in large gas flows transiting Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary destined for Ukraine,” reports S&P.  “This in turn created the conditions for the growth of gas hubs in Central and Eastern Europe.”

Europe’s Green Deal commitment to renewables, hydrogen and decarbonizing energy sources “means that between 2030 and 2040, Europe may see a radical drop in demand for natural gas,” Andrian Prokip, wrote in a Kennan Institute essay: “New Era of Gas Wars between Ukraine and Russia? “That would likely mark the end of Russia’s energy expansionism.”

The EU ‘Hydrogen Strategy’ calls for dividing EU hydrogen production between the EU and its eastern neighbors. “This strategy stipulates that ‘the Eastern Neighborhood, in particular Ukraine, and the Southern Neighborhood countries should be priority partners,’” writes Prokip, an energy expert for the Wilson Center. “Ukraine could become a key partner of the EU in the production and export of hydrogen. In light of Ukraine’s current diminished role in natural gas transit…hydrogen export may become the basis for a revitalized, long-term cooperation and part of the real economic integration of Ukraine and the EU.

In reaction, Gazprom and Rosatom, the nuclear corporation, recently signed a deal to hydrogen production in 2024. Uniper, the German energy giant, says Nord Stream 2 could be repurposed to carry a blend of 80% hydrogen and 20% natural gas.

“Joe Biden Is Unlikely to Save Angela Merkel’s Pet Project,” headlines a Bloomberg article yesterday about the $11 billion, 1,239 km Russia-German Baltic Sea gas line. “U.S. opposition is likely to remain under Biden,” Bloomberg writes about Nord Stream 2.  “There’s American cross-aisle agreement” against Nord Stream, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President and Angela Merkel’s former defense minister, told Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper earlier this month.

Democrats should not go wobbly on Nord Stream 2, The Wall Street Journal warns in an editorial: “Congress shouldn’t back off Russia sanctions in the annual defense bill.” “The incoming Democratic Administration wants closer cooperation with Western Europe,” wrote the conservative US newspaper. “That shouldn’t come at the cost of increasing NATO vulnerability to Russia. Congress would assist U.S. and European strategic interests if it gets the Nord Stream sanctions over the finish line in the lame duck session.”

The US Congress is targeting insurance companies in the latest strategy to stop the pipeline, Bloomberg reports from Washington. “House and Senate negotiators agreed to target insurers and technical certification companies working on the project in a defense bill that must pass by the end of the year.”

In advance of passage, US officials already are contacting companies to warn they may face sanctions, DPA reports from Washington. “We’re in the process of calling a number of these companies to make them aware that they’re likely engaged in sanctionable activity,” an official reportedly tells the German news agency.

Rozetka.ua, Ukraine’s largest online store is seeing record number of visitors to their site – 5.6 million on Tuesday. With the retailer’s ‘Black Friday’ sales going on all week, Vladyslav Chechotkin, Rozetka owner wrote on Facebook that some items already are running out. “Sales hit records,” he wrote. “We have run out of many products already, despite our large purchases.” The most popular items are: laptops, TV sets, vacuum cleaner robots, electric grills, men’s boots, women’s sneakers, and Lego blocks.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine has presented its annual Thanksgiving Awards to Mykhailo Fedorov, Digital Transformation Minister, and to Paul Niland, founder of Lifeline Ukraine, a national suicide prevention hotline focused on helping military veterans. Fedorov said of his work to simplify government services: “We have already created a mobile application and portal of electronic services ‘Diia’, introduced the first digital passports in the world, launched registration of a business in 15 minutes.”

Editor’s Note: In honor of Thanksgiving, my own Turkey Award goes to Péter Szijjártó, Foreign Minister of the neighboring republic of Hungary. In mid-October, as Americans were voting for president, Hungary’s top diplomat posted on Facebook a long, slashing video attack on Joe Biden. He charged that Vice President Biden spent more time in Ukraine than in the US outside Washington’s Beltway. After that wrongway bet, Szijjártó now learns that Biden’s Secretary of State will be Antony Blinken. From 1994 to 1996, Antony’s father, Donald Blinken, was US Ambassador to Hungary. The future US Secretary of State may well be hip to Hungary’s tricks. After the US election, Hungary’s hapless Foreign Minister flew to Phnom Penh to bond with a fellow authoritarian, Hun Sen, Cambodia’s Prime Minister for 36 years. But after their embrace, Szijjártó discovered he had Covid-19. The 67-year-old Cambodian dictator retreated into self-isolation for two weeks. Thai authorities cancelled all meetings with Szijjártó and sent him home on the first flight in the direction of Budapest. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke

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Wednesday, November 25

Reality Check: No IMF Aid This Year...Finance Ministry Raises Interest Rates to Sell Hryvnia Bonds...Capital Investment Drops 29%...Israel-Ukraine Free Trade Pact Starts Jan. 1...Looking Beyond Covid, SkyUp and New Airline Plan New Flights
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 will not receive any additional tranches of IMF low interest loans this year, Tymofiy Mylovanov, former Economy Minister and newly appointed advisor to the President’s office said Monday night on the ICTV’s Svoboda Slova program. Under the $5.5 billion agreement signed last June, Ukraine received an immediate loan of $2.1 billion. By the end of December, it was to receive two more tranches of $700 million apiece.

Last summer’s purge of the Central Bank leadership and the court rulings that undermined Ukraine’s anti-corruption agencies apparently turned off the IMF. Last month, the head of Britain’s M-I6 intelligence agency reportedly warned President Zelenskiy that his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, is a Russian agent. Last week, the Kyiv Post published an interview with Stanislav Shevchuk, former chairman of the Constitutional Court, who charged that the Court’s “goal is to kill Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic vector.”

While the IMF awaits a positive resolution of the Constitutional Court standoff, Mylovanov said Ukraine could get an IMF “staff-level agreement.” This could unlock billions in EU and World Bank aid as well as improve access to the international Eurobond market. To facilitate talks with the IMF, Zelenskiy plans to send Oksana Markarova to Washington as Ambassador. A veteran of several IMF negotiations, Markarova served as Finance Minister in early March when Zelenskiy unexpectedly fired her.

Adamant Capital wrote last night: “Key requirements seem to be some kind of progress on resurrecting the [National Anti-Corruption Bureau’s] powers and a balanced 2021 budget (deficit, in all probability, needs to be lower than the current 6% of GDP target). Given that the state is currently in dire need of financing (we estimate that at least $5.5 billion of extra cash will be needed by year end to fulfill expenditure obligations), we expect Zelenskiy to do everything in his power for this scenario to materialize.”

The Finance Ministry jacked up interest rates yesterday and increase its sales of hryvnia bonds 30-fold, compared to the week earlier. By raising yields by one percentage point, to 10%, the Ministry sold $245 million worth of 4-month bonds. By raising the yield by 125 basis points, to 10.25%, the Ministry sold $119 million worth of 6-month bonds. These two sales, accounted for 90% of the hryvnia sales. In addition, the Ministry auctioned off €157.7 million in 1.2 year bonds at 2.45%, up 23 basis points from the last similar auction.

The companies of Serhiy Tigipko’s TAS Group plan to issue about $70 million worth of bonds next year, about 95% in hryvnia, Roman Gorokhovskikh, the Group’s international projects director, told the Ukrainian CFO Forum last week in Kyiv. Bonds will take the same amount of time to prepare as bank loans – 3-4 months — but will offer cheaper money, he said. Rather than offer bonds for the group, TAS will offer bonds for individual companies, offering yields between 3% and 10%, depending on individual company ratings.

Capital investment dropped 29% yoy, to $9.5 billion, for the first three quarters of this year, reports the State Statistics Service. Self-financing by companies accounted for 69% of total capital investment. Other sources were: local budgets – 8.6%; bank loans – 7.5%; state budget – 6%; family savings for residential housing construction – 5.2%; and foreign investors – 0.5%. Last year, capital investment was up 11% over 2018.

The Israel-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement starts Jan.1, President Zelenskiy tweeted yesterday. “The ‘green light’ to the growth of Ukrainian exports, closer cooperation in the fields of high-tech, engineering, investment,” is how Zelenskiy described. Although Zelenskiy signed the agreement in August of last year, Knesset ratification was held up by three parliamentary elections in one year in Israel. Zelenskiy hopes the deal will double bilateral trade from last year’s level of $1 billion.

Ernst & Young, is to prepare a tender for the concession to a private operator of the rail-ferry complex at Chornomorsk port, Infrastructure Minister Vladislav Krykliy announced yesterday. The tender to upgrade and operate the terminal will be held by June and should generate commitments to invest at least $5 million, Krykliy said. Separately, the Ministry plans to put up for tender by December a concession to run the port’s container terminal. The Global Infrastructure Facility, a World Bank partnership with country donors, is advising and partly funding the tender process. Opened in 1962 as Illichivsk, Chornomorsk has ferry service with Poti, Georgia; Karasu, Turkey; and Varna, Bulgaria.

Concession projects also are planned for parts of these ports: Odesa on the Black Sea; Berdyansk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov; and Izmail and Reni on the Danube. Three small, state-owned ports are to be put up for sale: Bilhorod-Dnistrovs’kyi, Skadovsk and Ust-Dunaisk.

Over the next three years, the government plans to oversee investments in upgrades at 14 regional airports: Cherkasy, Chernivtsi, Dnipro, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kherson, Kryvy Rih, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Poltava, Rivne, Sumy, Vinnytsia,  Zakarpattia, and Zhytomyr. In Zakarpattia, Uzhgorod airport is to be replaced, probably on the site of an old Soviet airbase south of Mukachevo. Due to be carried out with a mix of public and private funds, the 14 airports are on a list of 103 priority investment projects approved last week by the Cabinet of Ministers.

Looking beyond coronavirus, a new Ukrainian airline, Bees Airline, plans to start service next month, offering charter flights between Kyiv Sikorsky and Egypt’s coastal resort cities. Managed by Yevgeny Khainatsky, SkyUp’s former managing director, Bees has leased and painted yellow and black two Boeing 737-800 jets formerly used by UIA. Next spring, Bees plans to add two more Boeings and possibly fly to Georgia.

SkyUp Airlines plans to start flights from Kyiv Boryspil next spring to Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Opened one month ago, this new airport replaces Schönefeld, Tegel and Tempelhorf airports. On Dec. 27, SkyUp inaugurates service to Kayseri, Turkey. Last month, SkyUp launched its ‘City Break’ long weekend option with flights to Dubai.

Poland has agreed to allocate 5,000 additional permits for Ukrainian trucks, Minister Krikliy announced on his Telegram channel. Good through January 31, the offer comes after Ukraine charged that by cutting trucking permits for Ukraine, Poland was violating Ukraine’s liberalized trade agreement with the EU. Poland is short of truck drivers. By squeezing the permits, Poland tries to get Ukrainian drivers to drive for Polish companies.

Editor’s Note: Everyone is so wary of conspiracy theories these days, that they may be missing the big one staring them in the face. If reports filtering out of Britain’s MI-6 are to be believed, the President’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak, is a ‘Russian asset.’ Shortly after Yermak took the post last winter, pro-Western ministers, agency heads and central bank governors were eased out — one by one by one. Then, if the former Chairman of the Constitutional Court is to be believed, the Court’s untouchable judges started a holy war on the main pillars of post-Maidan governments. On Monday afternoon, while watching the geese at the Rivne Zoo, I was reminded of that elementary dictum, valid for all junior detectives: “If it walks like a duck, if it swims like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then maybe…” With Best Regards, Jim Brooke

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Tuesday, September 8

China Discusses Building Mammoth Black Sea Grain Terminal...Ukraine’s Exports Recover, Seaport Cargo Up 5%...First Wheat Shipment to Saudi Arabia...With Gas Glut, EU Traders Stuff Gas into Ukraine Reservoirs...Saakashvili Wants to Become Prime Minister of...Georgia
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

A Chinese state company is discussing building a massive Black Sea grain terminal that could handle 5 million tons a year, the equivalent of 10% of Ukraine’s corn and wheat exports. Yesterday, representatives of China Road Construction Corporation International Investment met with executives of Pivdennyi port, Ukraine’s deepest and busiest port. The project would represent a big expansion for Pivdennyi, located 45 km east of Odesa. Last month, iron ore accounted for 86% of the 1.5 million tons of cargo handled at the port.

Chinese container trains now arrive at Kyiv at the pace of one a week, reports Ukrzaliznytsia. Traveling 9,000 km from Nanchang in 15 days, the latest train arrived Saturday at Kyiv’s left bank Liski freight depot. Its 41 containers carried mineral fertilizers, lamps, bulbs, medical cargo and chemical components for filtering water. With three more container trains due to arrive this month, Ukrzaliznytsia is booking return freight of Ukrainian goods for China.

Ukraine seeks Chinese investment in industrial parks specializing in processing, storing and transshipping food, Olga Stefanishyna, deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, yesterday told China’s new ambassador to Ukraine, Fan Xianrong. Ukraine wants to increase food exports to China, and to use Chinese free ports to export to Pacific Basin countries, she said, reports the Cabinet of Ministers website. “To intensify cooperation,” her Ministry is establishing a working group with the Chinese embassy.

Through August, Ukraine’s seaports handled 5% more cargo than during the same period last year, reports the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority. The 106 million tons of cargo breaks down as follows : exports +5.4%, to 81 million tons; imports +1%, to 16 million tons; transit +4.6%, to 7.3 million tons; cabotage +31%, to 1.6 million tons. The two main export product were nearly even: grain – 30.7 million tons; and metal ore – 30.2 million tons. Pig iron exports jumped 50%, to 2.3 million tons. Containers were up 9.2%, to 690,600.

Ukraine’s top five ports handled 91.5% of the nation’s cargo during the first eight months of this year, reports the Sea Ports Authority. Pivdennyi once again was the most dynamic, with its cargo levels growing by 25% yoy, to handle 42 million tons, or 40% of the nation’s total. This growth was at the expense of Ukraine’s next three busiest ports: Mykolaiv -10%, to 19.2 million tons; Odesa -7%, to 15.6 million tons; and Chornomorsk -1%, to 15.4 million tons. Strong growth was registered at the two Azov ports. Mariupol was up 21%, to 4.6 million tons. Berdyansk was up 33%, to 1.5 million tons.

Ukraine’s exports are recovering from last spring’s corona-recession. August exports were down only 1.6% yoy, “which in the context of a pandemic sounds like fantasy,” Taras Kachka, deputy minister of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture, writes on Facebook. “International trade is recovering at a much faster pace than after the 2008 crisis.”  For the first eight months of the year, exports are down 6.6%, to $31 billion. With imports down by 12.4%, the trade deficit through August is $1.3 billion, about one third the level of the same period last year.

Ukraine exports of corn, wheat, and barley will drop around 9% yoy, to 51 million tons, in the current marketing season, predicts Grainmart, India’s first Grain Trading B2B online marketplace. Based near New Delhi, Grainmart draws on figures from the Ukrainian Grain Association.

Two years after Saudi investors bought Ukraine’s troubled Mriya Agro Holding, a shipment of 60,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat is on its way to Saudi Arabia. In the first such shipment to Saudi Arabia in 12 years, a Panamax carrying Ukrainian grain from Chornomorsk arrives Sept. 17. In 2018, Saudi Agricultural Investment and Livestock Company, or Salic, bought Mriya and merged it with its existing Ukraine farms under an umbrella company, Ukrainian Continental Farmers Group. Georg von Nolcken, general director of Continental, says: “This is certainly a good indicator and a clear signal of serious investment intentions of Saudi Arabia in Ukraine.”

Poisoned Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny has improved, doctors treating him in Berlin say. He is out of a medically-induced coma, is being weaned off a ventilator, and “is responding to verbal stimuli,” the doctors say at Charité, the Berlin hospital where he is being treated. Germany’s government has asked Russia’s government to explain why Navalny was poisoned with a military grade poison. Reaffirmed yesterday, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position is that Kremlin noncompliance with an investigation could force Germany to change its position on the $11 billion Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas line.

Germany May Not Even Need the Nord Stream Pipeline Right Now, headlines a Bloomberg analysis from Berlin. “Europe is flooded with gas and demand is likely to remain stable,” reads the energy market analysis. “With storage sites in Europe almost full, the European benchmark contract has more than halved since its peak in 2018.” With the rise of wind and solar and increasing energy efficiencies, Europe’s gas demand is to remain flat for the next five years, predicts the International Energy Agency. “If Nord Stream 2 is delayed only until the early 2020s, there would be no big impact,” said Katja Yafimava, senior research fellow at The Oxford Institute For Energy Studies.

“Has Vladimir Putin Poisoned His Pet Pipeline Project?” Diane Francis, an opponent of the gas line, asks in an Atlantic Council Ukraine blog.

Ukraine’s natural gas imports jumped 67% yoy in August, as EU gas traders filled Ukraine’s gas storage reservoirs to a record 84% of capacity. Traders store their gas in Ukraine, waiting for the traditional autumn rise in prices as Europe prepares for winter. For its own use, Ukraine’s Naftogaz had 26 billion cubic meters in storage on Saturday, 39% more than one year earlier.

Mikheil Saakashvili was chosen yesterday to lead an 11-party opposition coalition in Georgia’s Oct. 31 parliamentary elections. If the coalition wins, the former Georgian president would become prime minister. If the coalition loses, Saakashvili presumably would return to his Kyiv job: chairman of Ukraine’s National Reform Council. Levan Varshalomidze, former governor of Batumi and a longtime ally of Saakashvili, also took a sabbatical last week from his Ukraine job, board chairman of UkraineInvest.

Traffic at Boryspil was down 60% yoy in August, to 656,029 passengers, reports the Center for Transportation Strategies. Traffic on charter flights was down by only 9%, indicating that Kyiv residents cling to their package tours to Egypt and Turkey. By contrast, traffic on regular flights – largely to the EU and North America – was down by 78%. Traffic is expected to be even worse in September because the government has closed Ukraine to most foreign visitors for the month.

From the Editor: In its usual dispassionate way (no adjectives, please!), Bloomberg picks apart Nord Stream 2 and concludes that there is no economic rationale for doubling the existing Nord Stream gas line,  until 2030, if ever. Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin drive toward the future while resolutely looking in the rearview mirror at yesterday’s fuel sources – coal, oil and gas. Better insight into the world’s energy future comes from checking this website: EcoTown.ua. Quantum leaps in renewable technologies are being followed by quantum leaps in renewable investments. Russia’s $11 billion Nord Stream 2 risks looking like its $50 billion Sochi Olympics – another pyramid built for the Czar. With Best Regards Jim Brooke

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Friday, September 4

German Politicians Oppose Nord Stream II...Kyiv Court Ruling Threatens to Unravel PrivatBank Nationalization...Gov’t Approves Road Map for Cutting State Ownership of Banks...Key Interest Rate to stay at 6% this Year...One Third of Kyiv Metro Riders Stay Above Ground...
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

Political pressure is mounting on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to freeze or drop the Russia-Germany Nord Stream II pipeline project, according to  Bloomberg and The Financial Times reports from Berlin. The game changer was a report by a German military laboratory Tuesday that said Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned Aug. 20 by Novichok, the same restricted use, military-grade nerve agent used by Russian agents in Britain in 2018.

At stake is a $9.5 billion, 1,222 km, trans-Baltic pipeline designed to take gas directly from Russia to Germany. Capable of carrying 55 billion cubic meters of gas a year, this is designed to end Russia’s dependence on Ukraine’s Gas Transportation System. From 2021 to 2024, Gazprom is contracted send 40 bcm year through Ukraine, earning Ukraine about $1.5 billion a year.

With Navalny lying in an induced coma in Berlin’s Charité Hospital, a 10-minute walk from the Bundestag, the mood inside Germany’s parliament building has turned sharply against the Kremlin.

“The EU should jointly decide to stop Nord Stream,” tweeted Norbert Roettgen, Head of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee and a candidate to head Merkel’s Christian Democratic party. “The only language that Putin understands is the language of natural gas.”

Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesman for the SPD, a junior partner in the Merkel coalition, said: “We need to make it clear that all talk of a strategic partnership with Russia is now over.”

Christian Lindner, leader of the liberal FDP party, said: “A regime that organizes murders by poisoning is no partner for big cooperative projects — and that includes pipeline projects.”

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, leader of the Greens in parliament, said: “Nord Stream 2 is no longer something we, together with Russia, can press ahead with.”

While Germans wait for Merkel’s move, Bild, Germany’s best-selling newspaper, calls on the Chancellor to “stop Putin’s pipeline.”

In Ukraine, Germany’s Ambassador Anka Feldhusen joined her G-7 counterparts yesterday to lobby Prime Minister Shmygal to defend PrivatBank against attempts to reverse the 2016 nationalization of the Ukraine’s largest bank. With EU and IMF support, $5.5 billion was injected into the bank in 2017, filling a hole left by what forensic auditors have called an orgy of insider lending and theft.

On Tuesday, a Kyiv court ruled that PrivatBank should pay $350 million – principal and interest – for deposits of six British companies owned by Ihor and Hryhoriy Surkis, two brothers who were business associates of PrivatBank’s former owners, Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholyubov.  PrivatBank lawyers said yesterday they will appeal, arguing that the brothers were related parties to the mismanagement of the bank. The Surkis and other depositors have filed hundreds of lawsuits suing for $1.2 billion.

We will challenge this decision,” Petr Krumphanzl, a Czech banker who is Board Chairman of PrivatBank, told Ukrinform. We will continue to seek justice for PrivatBank and Ukrainian taxpayers who are the bank’s ultimate shareholders.”

“One of the biggest transgressions in the history of the judicial power of Ukraine took place today,” Justice Minister Denis Malyuska wrote on Facebook. Noting that the judge’s name Vovk, also means ‘wolf’, he illustrated his complaint with a cartoon of a gray wolf happily carrying away a big bag of loot.

Alexander Danilyuk, Finance Minister at the time of the nationalization, warned on Facebook yesterday: “This is the beginning of the collapse of the results of the nationalization of PrivatBank.” He warned that if the lawsuits are not stopped, they could cost Ukraine’s government billions of dollars.

The Cabinet of Ministers has approved a strategy for steadily reducing the state share in Ukrainian banking, from 60% today, to below 25% in 2025. By the end of next year, all four state banks are to draw up road maps for the sale of public shares.

  • Ukrgasbank is to reach an agreement with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation next month about converting last year’s €30 million loan into shares. Ukrgasbank will probably be the first state bank to be privatized.
  • Oschadbank should be privatized by 2025.
  • PrivatBank is to gradually shed government ownership.
  • Ukreximbank is to be matched with a minority investor, chosen by the Finance Ministry, with the long-term goal of privatization.

The Finance Ministry reported that Ukraine’s state-owned banks wrote off $1 billion worth of non-performing loans at the expense of reserves during the first half of this year. For state banks, non-performing loans account for 63% of their loan portfolios. As of July 1, there are 57,000 outstanding claims by state banks in courts to reclaim $1.4 billion in assets.

Almost overlooked in the furor of the Surkis case, Ukraine’s central bank met expectations yesterday and kept the prime lending rate at 6%. Dmitry Sologub, a deputy governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, predicted to reporters yesterday: “We expect the interest rate to remain at 6% by the end of the year.” Two months ago, when President Zelenskiy installed his candidate, Kyrylo Shevchenko, a central bank governor, many analysts thought the shakeup was made to lower interest rates this fall.

Now, Tim Ash and others are having second thoughts. He writes from London: “The reality is dawning that pressure to make management changes at the NBU was never really about monetary and exchange rate policy, but rather the durability of banking reform. The real battleground remains Privatbank. I think we got another hard lesson in that last night with the Surkis ruling.”

The central bank “expects an IMF [review] mission in the near future and plans to receive more money from the IMF by the end of the year,” Shevchenko, the Bank Governor told reporters yesterday. Ash reacted: “Very optimistic in my view given backtracking on banking reform and anti-corruption agenda. I cannot see an IMF mission before local elections in October.”

The Finance Ministry sold the Hryvnia equivalent of $102 million in bonds at this week’s auction – three times the borrowings of last week. The only bill that sold – a 13-month bond – went with a weighted average interest rate of 9.29%.

UIA is scheduling a direct Kyiv Boryspil – New York JFK – Kyiv Boryspil flight next Wednesday. With a one-way fare of $482, the Boeing leaves Kyiv at noon on Sept. 9. After a 2-hour turnaround in New York, the plane takes off again for Ukraine, leaving at 5:45 pm New York time. Tickets can only be bought through the UIA site.

Three months after the end of Kyiv’s full corona lockdown, daily metro ridership is about one million, down by one third from the pre-lockdown volume 1.5 million. Normally, the Kyiv’s subway system earns $10 million a month. Due to the spring lockdown and today’s week ridership, the Metro may run out of money to pay salaries next month, the transit system reports in an appeal to the Kyiv City Council for more money.

From the Editor: Putin may have gone a bridge too far in apparently trying to kill his chief political opponent Alexei Navalny. If today’s mood in Germany’s Bundestag translates into action, underwater archeologists may ponder this mystery a few centuries hence: What ancient civilization built an empty steel pipe running 1,200 km down the Baltic sea bed? Was it a religious totem? An attempt to communicate with extra terrestrial cultures?  With Best Regards Jim Brooke

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Thursday, September 3

Russian Gas Transit Volumes Dwindle...Greece, Romania, Turkey: New Gas Sources for Ukraine...Turkey, Ukraine Create Alliance For Defense Production...Glencore Buys Sunflower Oil Tank Farm and Terminal in Mykolaiv...Hot Weather Makes the Case for Irrigation in Kherson and Odesa...
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

Signaling the end of an era, the volume of Russian gas crossing Ukraine on the Soviet-era pipeline system is down 42% compared to the same January-August period last year. Under the Dec. 30 contract, Russia’s Gazprom committed to shipping 65 billion cubic meters across Ukraine, down from the 2019 level of 89.6 bcm. Gazprom is paying full freight, but it is only shipping 80% of booked capacity. Under the contract, Gazprom will ship even less starting next year — 40 bcm annually through 2014. For the last 30 years, Ukraine’s gas transmission system has been a big money earner – about $3 billion a year in fees.

The biggest drops this year are on Ukraine’s southern route to Moldova and Romania. On this ‘trans-Balkan route,’ gas shipments are down 73%, to 2.3 bcm for the first eight months. The game changer was the Jan. 8 opening of Turkish Stream. This line brings Russian gas up from the south, skirting Ukraine.

As Europe’s pipelines become increasingly inter-connected, ERU Trading, an American company, sent a test gas shipment in July from Revithoussa, Greece’s LNG terminal, on the Aegean Sea, through Romania to Ukraine. Hailing the possibilities of “the new gas transmission corridor Greece-Romania-Ukraine,” Yaroslav Mudryy, managing partner of ERU Trading, said: “Traditionally, gas and oil are exported from the East to the West, but our partners are interested in a new, unconventional approach.”

As part of this newly liberalized market, 72 traders – a mix of European and Ukrainian companies – parked a total of 8.2 bcm of gas in Ukrainian reservoirs this summer, waiting for the annual rise in prices in the fall. With 65% of gas coming into western Ukraine this summer going into storage for further transit, Serhiy Makogon, general director of Ukraine’s Gas Transit System Operator, said: This means that Ukraine is geopolitically and economically an interesting and profitable partner for Europe. Therefore, the GTS Operator will continue to work on the business development of its capabilities, including the direction of creating a European gas hub in Ukraine.”

Well prepared for the winter heating season, Naftogaz has stored 25.6 bcm of its own gas, 39% more than this time last year. By the Nov. 1 start of the heating season, Naftogaz may have a record 28 bcm in storage, 29% more than last year, Nafotgaz CEO Andriy Kobolev said Tuesday on Ukraina 24 TV. In last winter’s 4-month heating season, Ukraine consumed only 6 bcm.

President Zelenskiy has called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on the discovery of a large natural gas field in Turkish waters off the Black Sea coast. Erdogan estimates the field at 320 bcm. This is the equivalent of 10 years of Turkey’s gas imports and 30 years of Ukraine’s imports. After the Turkish drilling ship, Fatih, made the discovery last month, Erdogan promised to start developing the field immediately.

Turkey and Ukraine are creating “a strategic alliance” for defense production, Oleh Urusky, Ukraine’s Strategic Industries Minister, tells Ukrinform. In late August, Urusky led a group that toured Turkish defense factories, met with defense industry leaders and met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “We are actively moving towards a strategic alliance — aircraft construction, armor production, missile construction, electronic warfare, instrument making (opto-electronics) and engine building,” Urusky told Ukraine’s state-owned news agency. One project could be joint development of a strike drone fighter, with a Ukrainian turbojet engine. Turkey, a NATO nation, has a 430-year rivalry with Russia for control of the Black Sea.

Glencore, the agricultural commodities giant, has bought Everi, one of Ukraine’s largest vegetable oil export terminals. Built a decade ago in Mykolaiv, Everi was expanded in 2018 to have tanks capable of holding 160,000 tons  and a pumping capacity of 1.5 million tons of oil into seagoing ships for export. From the Netherlands, Glencore Agriculture Limited CEO David Mattiske said of the purchase from Orexim: “This acquisition reinforces our long term commitment to the agriculture sector in Ukraine.”

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority is the biggest shareholder in Glencore. Two weeks ago, QTerminals, Qatar’s multinational port operator, signed a concession agreement to run Mykolaiv’s Olvia port, 15 km down river from the Everi terminal. Qatar Investment Authority is not a shareholder in QTerminals.

Dry weather and drought, especially in southern Ukraine, will cut this year’s grain harvest by 7 million tons, or 9% below last year’s bumper harvest of 75 million tons, Prime Minister Shmygal told the Cabinet yesterday. The ongoing corn harvest is coming in 1 million tons short. With corn expected to fall to 35 million tons, the Ukrainian Grain Association forecasts the nation’s total grain and oilseeds harvest will be 95.6 million tons, the second largest in Ukraine’s history. Exports will be 56 million tons.

Next year the government plans to channel “Big Construction” spending into “the creation of irrigation systems in the southern regions of Ukraine,” Prime Minister Shmygal told the Cabinet yesterday. “Such systems should increase yields and protect farmers from adverse weather conditions.” With temperatures rising in southern Ukraine, President Zelenskiy has called for rebuilding Soviet-era irrigation systems and creating new ones. The government estimates the drought cost Odesa farmers $235 million in lost crop receipts.

Starting this month, up to €120 million in loan money for rural infrastructure, including irrigation, is available for small and medium farmers in southern Kherson region. The money is part of a larger, €400 million rural lending facility extended to the area by the European Investment Bank, reports Stefan Rosenow, team leader for the project. Separately, the EBRD is working with the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources to modernize irrigation systems of the lower Dniester in Odesa region.

Today, the National Bank of Ukraine is likely to keep the prime interest rate at the current level of 6%, indicate separate polls of economists and bankers by Reuters and Interfax Ukraine. With a 5.9% increase in the minimum wage approved Tuesday by the Rada, analysts predict annual inflation will double, to 4.9% in December. Many forecasts “point to a significant acceleration of inflation over the horizon of 6-9 months,” Oleksiy Blinov of Alfa-Bank Ukraine tells Reuters. “This indicates a high probability of completion of the stage of reducing the discount rate in Ukraine.” From a recent high of 18% in April 2019, the prime rate steadily dropped, hitting 6% last June.

From the Editor: Look up “Russo-Turkish War” in Wikipedia, and you can take your pick between the First (1568-1570) and the Twelfth (World War 1). Obviously, modern relations are more complex. Turkey’s dependence on Russian gas is a restraining factor. But around the old Ottoman Empire, Turkey and Russia find themselves on opposite sides — in the civil wars of Syria and Libya. In the 2020s, it makes geostrategic sense for Ukraine to work closely with its large southern neighbor. Often underestimated, Turkey has twice the population and twice the GNP of the neighbor Ukraine normally uses as a reference point and ally – Poland. With Best Regards Jim Brooke

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Wednesday, August 2

Ryanair Cuts Most Flights Between EU and Ukraine...PM Sees 50% Jump in Ukraine Corona Cases...Antonov-Turkey Talks on JV for Cargo Jet...Pro-Russia MP’s Want Court to Turn Back the Clock...Honcharuk: Washington Think Tanker - Volker: Kyiv Train Engineer...
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

Ryanair, Europe’s largest low cost carrier, has canceled almost all its flights to Ukraine for the second half of September, the airline’s booking system shows, reports Evropeiska Pravda. With 52 routes from Ukraine to EU cities, Ryanair is moving preemptively ahead of EU regulations that require full repayment for tickets for flight cancelled within two weeks of travel dates. Ryanair’s booking system shows only a handful of flights between Kyiv Boryspil and Cyprus, Spain and the UK. There are no flights from the four other Ukrainian cities previously served by Ryanair: Kharkiv, Kherson, Lviv and Odesa.

UIA, Ukraine’s largest carrier, has cancelled or reduced frequencies for a long list of flights. Signaling that it believes that the ban on most foreign visitors will last until the Oct. 25 local elections, UIA is cutting its flight program through Oct. 24. Compared to the planned schedule, UIA seem to cut about half of its seats in and out of Ukraine this fall.

Kyiv hotel owners and tour guides protested last Friday outside the Cabinet of Ministers saying the new one-month ban on most foreigners entering Ukraine is a heavy blow to tourism, an industry which has struggled since the first Covid lockdown in mid-March. One Kyiv hotel owner told the UBN that he knows of three business groups that cancelled their trips to Ukraine this month. Inside the government building, a senior official said that legitimate business people arriving at Boryspil this month will be admitted.

Prime Minister Shmygal expects that within one month Ukraine’s Covid-19 cases will be 50% higher than today. “Today we have from 2,000 to 2,500 new cases of the disease every day,” he told 1+1 television channel yesterday. “By the end of September and early October, this figure will rise to 3,000 patients every day. This will load hospitals by more than 80%.” Government officials are talking about test trials for a vaccine in November and mass vaccinations in March. It is unclear where this vaccine will come from.

Ducking the issue: Ukraine’s Antimonopoly Committee has declined to consider an application by Kharkiv’s DCH Group to purchase Motor Sich shares from China’s Skyrizon to run the Zaporizhia aircraft engine factory as a Chinese-Ukraine joint venture. The decision was made public yesterday, five days after US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo called President Zelenskiy and warned about “malign” Chinese investment. DCH, which also makes tractors, complained that the Committee’s requested information “not related to the core business” of the jet engine maker. DCH asked: Can Motor Sich “potato planters, potato diggers, harrows, plows, cultivators, mounted rotary mowers” be attached to DCH tractors?

Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “The Antimonopoly Committee has been trying to avoid any decision on the Skyrizon / Motor Sich deal for about three years, and its latest move indicates it is trying to continue postponing the solution for as long as possible…such uncertainty might be harmful for Motor Sich’s future as a going concern.”

Kyiv’s Antonov is negotiating joint production with Turkey of its short range An-178 military cargo jets, reports Turkey’s Daily Sabah, a pro-government daily. Oleksandr Los, Antonov’s new CEO, visited Turkey last month for talks. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tells CNN Türk that both governments “want to start more daring projects. Projects where Turkish and Ukrainian technologies are used together. These will be competitive projects in the global sense.”

Turkey’s new import tariffs on 115 goods are spurring Turkey and Ukraine to restart talks for a Free Trade Agreement. The two economy ministers, Ruhsar Pekcan for Turkey, and Igor Petrashko, for Ukraine talked week. Taras Kachka, deputy economy minister, writes on Facebook that he will travel to Ankara in coming days to advance talks. Two weeks ago, Turkey hiked tariffs by 15 to 20% for the goods that are non-EU.

In a key anti-corruption case watched by the IMF, Artem Sytnyk insists he is still director of the National Anticorruption Bureau, NABU. Last Thursday, days after NABU released audio recordings where judges appeared to discuss corruption plots involving including rulings Constitutional Court rulings, the Court ruled that President Poroshenko violated the Constitution five years ago, when he appointed Sytnyk as NABU director. Although President Zelenskiy now calls Sytnyk ‘acting director,’ legal experts say Sytnyk can only be removed by a Rada vote.

Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes Monday: “It looks like there is a high chance for Sytnyk to remain at his position till the end of his seven-year term, which expires in spring 2022.”

The Constitutional Court acted in response to a petition by 51 MPs, many of the same pro-Kremlin or pro-Kolomoiskiy Rada members, who successfully asked the Court to open five proceedings aimed at Ukrainian anti-corruption legislation, Tetiana Shevchuk, legal counsel at Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Center, writes in a new Atlantic Council essay: “Pro-Kremlin MPs and Oligarchs Wage Lawfare on Ukraine’s Reform Agenda.” She writes of the Court decision on NABU’d director: “Anti-corruption activists fear the decision could now pave the way for a host of similar legal verdicts with the potential to undermine Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration and reverse the progress made since the country’s 2014 Revolution of Dignity.”

Bonanza for TV stations and billboard owners: The Central Election Commission announces that campaigns for mayors and city councils officially start this Saturday. With the coronavirus pandemic ruling out large gatherings, advertising is expected to play a central role in campaigning leading up the Oct. 25 vote.

On the Move:

Former Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk joins the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center as a distinguished fellow, the Washington-based organization tweets. The youngest prime minister in Ukraine’s history, Honcharuk, then aged 35, led the government during the first six months of President Zelenskiy’s five-year term. Zelenskiy dropped Honcharuk on March 4 as part of a wider purge of the cabinet.

Kurt Volker, who served until last September as the State Department’s Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, joined BGS Rail yesterday as an independent board member of the Kyiv-based car leasing company. Volker also will advise the chairman and board of directors of BGS’ parent company, Avia Solutions Group, a company of Lithuanian origins. In Ukraine, BGS, or Baltic Ground Services, has 3,000 wagons for transporting coal, iron ore and grain. Volker said in an Avia press release: “By working with Avia Solutions Group in its development of BGS Rail, I see an opportunity to strengthen Ukraine’s economy, build world-class services, and create jobs for Ukrainian citizens.”

From the Editor: The UBN is pleased to announce that CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang Ukraine has agreed to sponsor the Ukraine Business News. It is great to see such a prestigious international law firm support independent business news in Ukraine, Europe’s next frontier market. With Best Regards Jim Brooke

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Friday, August 28

Belarus Economic Drop Could Hit Ukraine...US Cybersecurity Expert En Route Ukraine Arrested as Spy for Russia...After 100 Days, Saakashvili Quits Reform Council to Go Home to Georgia...Ze Promises Peace by Christmas...Facing Tonight’s Ban on Foreign Travelers, UIA Cuts Flights...
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 standoff between Belarus’ long-running ruler and mass opposition may soon cripple the finances of Ukraine’s northern neighbor and fourth largest trading partner. In the last week, the Belarusian ruble weakened by 8.5%, falling to 2.67 to the dollar. Belarus’ foreign currency reserves are down to $4.3 billion –“sufficient to cover just 1.4 months of imports, while three months is considered the minimum,” economist Anders Aslund writes in a new Atlantic Council piece: “Belarus Crisis: Can Lukashenka Survive a Collapsing Currency?”

Strikes are affecting three of four key state companies — fertilizer makers Belaruskali and Grodno Azot and oil refineries Naftan and Mozyr. They account for two thirds of Belarus’ exports to the West. “A prolonged strike at any of these four state-owned companies would collapse Belarusian export revenues and the Belarusian ruble, bringing Lukashenko to his knees,” writes Aslund, a Swedish-American economist with three decades experience in the ex-USSR. “If the currency collapses, the real strife will start.”

Ukraine is Belarus’ second largest trading partner, after Russia, Dmitry Chervyakov, a consultant with Berlin Economics, tells the Kyiv Post. Last year, Belarus exported $4.1 billion in goods to Ukraine and imported $1.7 billion. Ukraine bought four million tons of diesel and bitumen from Belarus for $2.4 billion and fertilizers for $300 million, largely from Belaruskali, the potash producer. Many of Belarus’ imports from Ukraine are transshipped to Russia to skirt bilateral Russia-Ukraine trade bans.

Lithuania is preparing to route Ukraine-bound trucks through eastern Poland if traffic disruptions start in Belarus, Yaroslav Narkevich, Lithuania’s Minister of Transport and Communications, tells Russian Railways Partner site. “We intend to discuss with Poland the option of returning our carriers through Poland, bypassing Belarus,” he said.  “So far there is no need to redirect the flow of trucks, but we are ready for this.” On Aug. 5, four days before the disputed Belarus presidential election, Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers had approved for Rada debate a liberalization law that would abolish the need for international trucking permits for Belarus-Ukraine trade.

Ukraine has “tightened control” at Ukraine-Belarus border crossings in wake of Lukashenko’s charges that Ukraine is trying to destabilize his regime. “We have tightened control at the border with Belarus, since the situation in this country is quite turbulent,” Border Guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko told RBK-Ukraine.

Starting Tuesday, Ukrainians can only enter Belarus with a foreign passport, reminds Ukraine’s Border Guard Service. A similar rule went into effect six months ago for travel to Russia. The government is trying to phase out the domestic passport paper booklets, which are easy to counterfeit.

In an open letter signed by more than 2,500 Belarusian IT CEOs, investors and developers, democratic normalcy is essential for the future of the industry in Belarus. Otherwise, they warn: “In the near future, we will begin to observe a massive outflow of specialists abroad, the opening of offices in neighboring countries, a slowdown in the growth of the IT sector, a decrease in investment in Belarusian IT companies, and a decrease in tax revenues.”

Japanese-owned tech company Rakuten Viber has closed its office last week in Minsk. San Francisco-based Rakuten CEO Djamel Agaoua cited violence against employees in Minsk. Kharkiv and other Ukrainian IT centers are recruiting Belarusian developers to move to Ukraine.

The day before he was to fly to Ukraine, a former US Army Green Beret captain was arrested and accused Friday of spying for Russia for the last 15 years. Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, aged 45, had repeated meeting with Russia’s G.RU., or military intelligence, according to the Alexandria, Virginia grand jury indictment posted by The New York Times. By 2010, the Washington Post reports, Debbins had left the Army and was working for a Ukrainian steel manufacturer in Minnesota. Then his Russian intelligence agents encouraged him to get back into government work.

Last spring, Debbins taught a webinar for Ukrainian-American Concordia University. He was billed as an instructor for Cyber Intelligence Initiative of Washington’s Institute for World Politics. The course was titled: “How to Approach Enterprise Cybersecurity!” In a congratulatory YouTube video, he urges graduates to have “a hacker’s mindset.”

Russia’s Gamaredon hacking group has prepared “a large coordinated attack on government agencies and critical infrastructure” by sending out email attachments infected with malware, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council warned last week. The goal may be to disrupt the Oct. 25 local elections. Phony emails were made to look like messages from Ukraine’s State Security Service. Council Secretary Oleksiy Danylov warns: “Cyberthreats from the Russian Federation are extremely dangerous for both Ukraine and European countries.”

So far this year, one million cases of cyber threats — website attacks, DDoS attacks, phishing and malicious software – have been recorded by the National Coordination Center for Cybersecurity, a unit of the Defense Council. To respond to threats and prevent attacks, the Center is stepping up cooperation with private sector companies. Last month, it signed cooperation agreements with three dozen private foreign and Ukrainian companies.

The Zelenskiy government is tripling the number of state companies protected from privatization – to 659. The Cabinet of Ministers approved the new list Wednesday. It will now go to the Rada. Last year, the Rada abolished a similar list of over 1,000 companied exempt from privatization.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a major free market force in the Zelenskiy government, announced yesterday that he is returning home to Georgia, reports Georgia Online.  “I know that we can live much cooler, much better, and every Georgian can be rich, and we can do it together!” he says in a video. “I’m coming back!”

Appointed three months ago to serve as chairman of Ukraine’s National Reform Council, Saakashvili felt the push of anti-reformers in the Zelenskiy government and the lure of Oct. 31 parliamentary elections in Georgia. Responding to negative reactions, Saakashvili posted on Facebook: “Some of my Ukrainian friends mourn my ‘farewell’ to Ukraine. I want to tell them: heads up! We will fight both in Georgia and in Ukraine! We will win there and there!”

In Tbilisi, Thea Tsulukiani, Georgia’s Justice Minister since 2012, promised to prepare a jail cell for the former president. In 2018, Saakashvili was convicted in absentia in two trials on charges stemming from his decade in office, from 2004 to 2013. The sentences handed down by Tbilisi City Court total nine years. Saakashvili and his supporters say the trials were politically motivated.

President Zelenskiy believes the current one-month-old ceasefire in the Donbas can be extended into a lasting peace by the end of this year. “I want to believe that it will be this year,” he tells Eurovnews’ Sasha Vakulina in a lengthy video interview. “I really want to believe it, and I DO believe, I do.”

Zelenskiy also asks European leaders to spell out the steps for Ukraine to join the EU. “I asked many European leaders this question – what do you want Ukrainians to do, step by step, to become an EU member?” he said in the interview posted Tuesday. Calling on Ukraine to speed up adoption of EU norms, he said: “We just have to become the country that Europe really would want.”

Travel companies plan to protest today the ban on incoming foreign travelers. The 1-month ban goes into effect tonight at midnight. Chornobyl tour operators, organizers of medical tourism, the Business Travel Association and owners foreigner friendly night clubs, such as Skybar, Closer and River Port, plan to gather outside the Cabinet of Ministers. Using the hashtag #OpenUkraineNow to coordinate the protest, the Association of Incoming Tour Operators says that after temperature controls started two months ago at airports, there are no known cases of infected tourists entering Ukraine. The ban is on nationals from all countries, not just the 65 countries deemed ‘red’ by Ukraine’s Health Ministry.

Kyiv Boryspil, Ukraine’s busiest airport, is installing this week a $37,000 temperature screening system that allows border guards to identify passengers with fever systems as they walk past a stationary camera. “It enables instant, non-contact temperature measurement of passengers from a distance,” the State Border Service said of the EU-donated equipment.

Noting that foreigners currently account for 60% of UIA’s passengers, UIA said yesterday it is cancelling flights in September between Kyiv and Athens, Barcelona, Berlina, Chisinau, Delhi, Geneva and Madrid. It will reduce frequencies between Kyiv and Brussels, Dusseldorf, Dubai, Istanbul, Paris and Tel Aviv. UIA CEO Yevhen Dykhne says the government ban “will have a negative impact on the aviation industry of Ukraine, which in the absence of any other state support in the crisis caused by the global pandemic, is economically weakened and is in critical condition.”

From the Editor: Assuming the US grand jury indictment is true, the Kremlin once again is playing a diabolical game. With one hand, Russia launches cyberattacks against Ukraine. With the other, it sends a compromised American to infiltrate Ukraine’s cyber security world.  It all reminds me of the gee whiz stories in the US financial press a decade ago about Eugene Kaspersky. This graduate of a KGB-sponsored technical college, amazingly, had reinvented himself as the CEO of rare Russian multinational. But in 2015, Bloomberg reported “high-level [Kaspersky] managers have left or been fired, their jobs often filled by people with closer ties to Russia’s military or intelligence services.” US government agencies quietly banned the use of Kaspersky cyber security and anti-virus software. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke

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Thursday, August 27 – Ukraine shuts its borders to foreign travelers for one month

Borders Close Tomorrow Night to Incoming Foreigners…Ukrainian Railways gets new CEO….MinFin Keeps Rates Low….More Loan Money for Small Biz….Zelenskiy Pledges help for Yuzhmash….Retail Up...Work Starts News Month on Dnipro Airport...
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 shuts its borders to foreign travelers for one month, starting tomorrow night at midnight. The major exceptions are: foreigners with Ukraine residence permits, diplomats, travelers in transit, students enrolling in universities, truck drivers and airline crews. The ban is designed to slow the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Shmyhal said yesterday after the weekly Cabinet of Ministers meeting. Starting Tuesday, the government bans discos, nightclubs and concerts in ‘green’ zones.

Ukraine’s Health Ministry has expanded its list of ‘red zone’ coronavirus countries to 65, adding Albania and Montenegro. Red zone countries have a 14-day infection rate higher than Ukraine’s level of 55/100,000 population. Travelers arriving from a red zone country must have full health insurance and undergo self-isolation until they test negative for the virus. The bilingual list can be found here.

With Ukraine’s schools scheduled to open on Tuesday, President Zelenskiy warned families to take precautions, noting that his 7-year-old son, Kyrylo, was hospitalized last month for coronavirus complications, along with his mother, Olena Zelenska. “No one is afraid of it until it reaches your family,” the president said. “I will speak plainly — this coronavirus is a real plague. There is no other word for it. My wife was affected, and so was my son.”

Law enforcement authorities in Chernivtsi, one of the country’s hardest hit red zones, decide to suspend the operation public transport, according to Ukrinform citing Deputy Mayor of Chernivtsi Dmytro. “Despite the decision taken by the city council, the police stopped and suspended public transport in Chernivtsi.”

Adamant Capital writes: Although Ukraine is currently displaying the highest amount of new cases on record, it seems unlikely that restrictions similar to those that have been introduced at the start of the pandemic are going to be reinstalled any time soon…the 2Q20 real GDP figure (-11.4% YoY) has demonstrated quite clearly the cost of an even relatively light lockdown and suggests that repeating the same scenario may be politically unaffordable unless the health crisis becomes dire.”

Volodymyr Zhmak will be the new CEO of Ukrainian Railways, the nation’s largest employer and a major economic player, the Cabinet of Ministers announced yesterday. Zhmak was previously a member of the Supervisory Board of the Boryspil Airport and has served as Deputy Chairman of the Odessa Regional State Administration. He also worked as an advisor to the president of Kyivstar, the Ukrainian mobile telephone company.

Passenger transport volume was down 41% yoy in July, reports ICU. In cities, transport was at 70-80% of last year’s levels. But rail was 38% of 2019 levels and air was only 18% of July 2019.

Retail turnover was up 8.5% yoy in July. However, wholesale trade fell by 6% yoy after the surge by 12% yoy in June, according to ICU.

Alfa-Bank Ukraine writes: “Retail trade provides a strong positive surprise in July. The sector accelerated to a growth of 8.5% y-o-y, already close to its pre-COVID trajectory. For comparison, we expected acceleration only to 3-4%…most of the unexpected boost was concentrated in the City of Kyiv, while many other regions indeed experienced less striking recovery in July…many residents of the capital stayed at home instead of spending abroad…This speculation is also supported by the fact that Odesa and Mykolaiv regions…were also the ones which experienced significant retail trade acceleration in July.”

The Finance Ministry placed UAH 816 million ($29.8 million) in 3-month local currency bonds at 7% and $31 million in 12-month hard currency bonds at 3.5%.

Concorde Capital’s Evgeniya Akhtyrko writes of Tuesday’s weekly auction: “The local bond market is in its traditional summer vacation lethargy. However, there is no guarantee that the next month will bring much of a revival to the market. The government is likely to have difficulty in its attempts to increase UAH auction receipts while keeping interest rates at the current level, as most market players apparently find them too low.

Prime Minister Denis Shmygal pledges $328 million more for Ukraine’s “5-7-9% affordable loan program” to prop up small businesses, the head of government announced on Facebook. He writes: “Small business owners need affordable resources to support their own business during the crisis. At the same time, there are new opportunities, so UAH 1 billion was spent on investment needs. We expect that this year we will have 7, 9 and even more billion hryvnias issued in the form of affordable loans for Ukrainian entrepreneurs.”

President Zelenskiy pledges support for Yuzhmash, the state-owned machine-building company that manufactures products for defense, aviation, agriculture, thermal power, and space industries. Visiting his native Dnipropetrovsk region, the President said: “We are ready to do everything possible to make Yuzhmash a Ukrainian brand and return the attention of various Western investors interested in its products.”

Construction on Dnipro airport’s new 3,000 meter runway will start next month, President Zelenskiy said yesterday on a visit to the city. Reviewing the tender schedule, he said: “I am sure that by the end of September we will see work on the airport.” Alexander Bondarenko, head of Dnipropetrovsk regional administration, added that DCH, the Kharkiv-based group, also will start work next month at the airport, building a new terminal.

Ukraine pays one of the highest electricity prices in Europe, according to the EU — €46.9  per MWh, while the European average was €33.5 per MWh. Countries paying the most are: Greece at €50 per MWh, Malta at €45 per MWh, Bulgaria €42 per MWh, Romania at €41 per MWh, Hungary and Poland €41 per MWh. The lowest are: Norway at €15 per MWh and Sweden at €17 per MWh.

Industrial output is down 4.8% yoy in July, according to the State Statistics Service. This represents a slight improvement from the 5.6% yoy drop recorded in June.

Food production is up 4.6% yoy in July, according to the State Statistics Service.

NBU board chairman Bohdan Danylyshyn says he thinks the disbursement of two tranches from the IMF in 2020 is unrealistic, Ukrinform reports. “Obviously, the baseline scenario of receiving two tranches by the end of this year – in September and December – is unrealistic. We can most likely expect the receipt of one tranche in the fourth quarter of 2020,” he says.

At the same time, Danylyshyn says “cooperation with the IMF will continue. Support from international partners remains one of the most important factors of macrofinancial stability in Ukraine. The planned revision of the program with the IMF, in my opinion, should be accompanied by a revision of the conceptual framework for cooperation and its focus on support for the national interests of Ukraine, not just international investors.”

Ukrbud’s unfinished construction problems are “basically resolved,” said Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. “The issue of Ukrbud is practically resolved, and I thank the city authorities and our colleagues for that, we worked here, found investors… And the issue of Ukrbud is practically removed from the agenda, and I believe that the last houses will be adopted soon.”

From Editor: I returned yesterday from my first trip to Turkey — a week on Aegean coast, between Bodrum and Ephesus. I come home to Kyiv frankly impressed with Turkey’s level of development. Turkey’s road builders are world famous, but it is a real pleasure to drive the four lane divided highways – and smooth side roads. I may have been on Turkey’s Gold Coast, but the country looks solidly middle class. Over the last decade, Turkey’s GNP per capita rose by 50%, to $15,000 today. By contrast, Ukraine’s official GNP per capita flat lined over the last decade, hovering around $3,300. Even if 40% of Ukraine’s economy is in cash, that would still make Turkey three times richer than Ukraine. Both countries had about the same population in 1990. Today, Turkey, with 84 million is at least twice as large. For linguistic, cultural, historic and religious reasons, Ukrainians naturally focus on Poland and the rest of Europe. But it would be well worthwhile for Ukrainians to study what their southern neighbor has achieved —  going from poverty to middle class in one generation. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke