Monday, March 1
Bell Textron’s ‘Huey’ helicopters, the US military’s workhorse in the Vietnam War, will be assembled in coming months at Ukroboronprom’s Odesa Aviation Plant under license from the Fort Worth, Texas company. Formally called the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, the first helicopter should be started in time for Ukraine’s 30th Independence Day, Aug. 24, Yuriy Gusev, CEO of Ukraine’s defense conglomerate, said Friday after a visit to the plant. Most of the 16,000 Hueys made since 1952 have been manufactured in Texas or Quebec. The Odesa plant, which specializes in the repair and maintenance of Soviet-design aircraft, is expected to largely assemble helicopter components manufactured in North America.
US investments in Ukraine are expected by the end of this year in a series of areas, Oksana Markarova, said in a lengthy interview with Ukrinform made prior to her traveling to Washington to take up her new post Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States. “We are already discussing a number of projects in the defense sector, energy, mining, agriculture, where I hope we will be able to show progress during the first six to twelve months,” she said. “Above all high technologies in other areas – high-tech, agrotech, medicine, as well as the military-defense sector.”
A five-year veteran of Ukraine’s Finance Ministry, Markarova dampened hopes that her main job is to get Ukraine’s IMF program back on track. She said: “Most of the central bodies of financial organizations are located in Washington, and I have a huge successful experience of working with them and a wide base of personal contacts at all levels, including managerial one, but working with the IMF is far from the main task of the ambassador to Washington.”
Ukraine will receive only one IMF tranche this year, predicts Fitch Ratings. Predicting that Ukraine will get less than one quarter of the $2.9 available under the June 2020 Standby Arrangement, the New York-based credit rating agency writes: “Fitch envisions one IMF disbursement of $0.7 billion for 2021, $1.5 billion of other official funding, a higher Eurobond issue than the planned $1.4 billion, and a 0.2% GDP cut in budget reserves.”
Financial needs in the second half of this year will pressure the government to adopt the anti-corruption and free market reforms demanded by the IMF, Fitch predicted. Foreign debt repayments spike in September, to $2.2 billion, and government budget needs increase in the fall.
As Ukrainians gain confidence in money transfer systems, the amount of money transferred inside the country grew by 24% yoy in 2020, to the equivalent of $9.5 billion, reports the National Bank of Ukraine. It was the fourth consecutive year of growth over 20%.
The amount of money sent into Ukraine through money transfer systems increased by 19% yoy, to $2.7 billion. The average amount of one transfer increased by 7%, to $393. The top sources of money coming in by money transfers were: the US, Italy, and Israel. Overall, $12.1 billion was sent into Ukraine last year by informal and formal channels, estimates the central bank.
More movies, better food, and chatbots oriented toward business customers are in the works for Ukrzaliznytsia this year, Alexander Pertsovsky, director of the state railroad’s ‘Passenger Company,’ told Hromadske Radio Friday. Expanding pilot projects, the railroad plans to expand to all long distance trains, the sale of lunch boxes, business lunches, children’s menu and, in partnership with Sweet TV, onling access to 280 films and cartoons with Ukrainian voice overs.
A Viber and Telegram chatbot for buying tickets that UZ launched in January with Visa and Middleware Inc. is to be expanded to handle group sales and “the B2B segment,” said Pertsovsky. UZ is working on a wait list feature for tickets on sold out trains. To promote sales, UZ may pay conductors sales commissions.
UZ will buy 100 new passenger sleeper cars for an expected price of $109 million, according a tender posted last week on Prozorro, the online procurement platform. The tender closes March 30 and the cars are to be delivered by year end. UZ carries about 40% of Ukraine’s long distance passenger traffic.
To boost Black Sea tourism, almost 500 km of bicycle paths are to be built in Odesa and neighboring Mykolaiv regions. In Odesa, two paths totaling 420 km will run on two routes south of the city, Ukravtodor reports on Facebook. One 90km-circuit will connect the resort town of Chornomorsk, Hrybivka and Ovidiopol. A second 250-km ‘Big Bike’ route will run south past Zatoka, Shabo, to 16 and T-16-25 roads and will provide bicycle connections with Zatoka, Shabo, Serhiyivka and Tatarbunary. The paths will largely follow highways, but will be separated from traffic by a fence. In Mykolaiv, governor Vitaliy Kim tells Nik Vesti that the regional government is starting to design 70 km of paths to connect with path to resorts in Kherson and Odesa.
Georgia reopens to foreign tourists today, after almost one year of quarantine. To enter Georgia, Ukrainians need to do two PCR tests – one within 72 hours of takeoff and a second 72 hours after arrival. In response, Ukraine’s SkyUp Airlines launches flights this week from Kyiv Borsypil, Zaporozhia, Lviv, Odesa and Kharkiv to Tbilisi and Batumi. On Friday, Ukraine’s Health Ministry ranked Georgia as ‘Green’ is its coronavirus listing.
Rivals Wizz Air and Ryanair are gambling that Italy will open up for Ukrainian tourism at the end of this month. Starting March 28, Ryanair starts service from Lviv to Bari, Naples, Palermo, Pisa, Treviso and Turin. Wizz Air starts flights from Lviv to Catania and Verona. From Odesa, Wizz Air starts flights to Bologna, Milan-Malpensa and Treviso. From Kyiv Sikorsky, Wizz Air starts service to Bologna, Catania, Milan-Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino. Lumiwings, a new Greek charter airline, plans to start flying in June between Odesa and Forli and Perugia, two cities in central Italy.
Bees Airline, a new Ukrainian lowcost startup, plans to start flying this month from Kyiv Sikorsky to Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Marsa Alam and in April to Mombasa, Kenya. The airline has leased two Boeing 737-800s that were used for nine years by UIA. Because of the pandemic, Bees reportedly was able to lease each Boeing for $10,000 a day – a 30% discount over pre-pandemic rates.
Editor’s Note: I admire the optimism of airlines scheduling a host of new flights to Italy at the end of March. But we all know how unreliable air travel has become. I write tonight from gray Kyiv, not sunny Tel Avlv, where I was supposed to be, according to tickets I bought in November. Three weeks ago, I bought a ticket on UIA to New York for May 28. One week later, that flight was cancelled. Ideally, by this summer, the US, the UK and maybe the EU will have vaccinated enough people to achieve herd immunity. But that does not mean they want visits from residents of Ukraine – without vaccination certificates. And here, the Health Ministry yesterday trumpeted on Telegram the latest results of the national vaccination campaign: “90 people vaccinated on Feb. 27 in Ukraine.” With Best Regards Jim Brooke