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  • Dnipro to Once Again Become the Mississippi of Ukraine
  • China Leads List of Partners for Free Trade Talks
  • Dragon Buys Site for Industrial Park Near Lviv
  • November Weekend Shopping Ban Cost Malls $250 million 

After 12 years of discussion, the Rada passed a river development bill designed to triple cargo carried on the Dnipro to 30 million tons by 2025. Ships will pass free through river’s six locks. To modernize the aging river gates, an ‘Inland Waterways Fund’ will be created, funded largely by excise taxes on fuel. During the late Soviet era, 60 million tons of cargo moved annually on the Dnipro.

A revitalised working river will generate an extra $500 million in economic activity, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krikliy said on his Telegram account. He added that for each 1 million tons of cargo carried on the river, Ukraine can save $35 million in road repairs.

“All over the world, river transportation is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way of delivering goods,” Artem Kovalev, Rada member and chief author of the law, wrote on Facebook. “Ukraine has a huge potential for the development of water transport, but now less than 1% of all goods are transported by the river (in the EU it is 7%). At the same time, the Danube and Dnipro are included in five largest rivers in Europe.”

Renewal of the Dnipro is expected to revive two Soviet era economic activities: shipbuilding and river cruise tourism. Due to global warming, the Dnipro’s ice-free shipping season seems to be expanding — to nine months. President Zelenskiy, a promoter of the bill, said he would sign the legislation soon.

Ukraine wants to start free trade talks next year with a host of countries, led by its largest trading partner, China, Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s Trade Representative, told Evropeiska Pravda. “Currently, the access of our products to the Chinese market is subject to higher duties than Chinese products to us,” he said, referring to a trade relationship that totaled $9.4 billion through August.

Ukraine would like to reopen and liberalise the UK-Ukraine agreement that was signed two months ago in London, a rushed deal designed to beat the December 31 Brexit deadline. Also on the list are countries with major trade deficits with Ukraine due to food exports: Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco and Vietnam. The Ukraine-Israel free trade agreement enters into effect on Jan. 1.


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Even without a UK-Ukraine trade pact renegotiation, Ukrainian food exporters are showing “great interest” in the expanded duty-free access to the British market, Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba told Interfax-Ukraine after a bilateral briefing on trade opportunities. Furniture manufacturers have gone on two trade missions to Britain recently, he said. He added: “Even Ukrainian manufacturers of Christmas tree decorations are now interested in the British market.”

Helped by cheaper energy import prices, Ukraine’s trade deficit in goods is running at half the level of last year, reported the State Customs Service. Through November, the trade deficit was $3.93 billion, down from $8.15 billion recorded during the first 10 months of last year. Year over year, exports were down 3.5%, while imports were down 10.8%.

Dragon Capital has acquired Lviv Industrial Park located on a 23.5-hectare land plot on the M10 highway, 60 km east of the Polish border. Five years ago, CTP, the largest developer and operator of warehouses and industrial parks in Central and Eastern Europe, bought the site — the Czech company’s first foray into the former Soviet Union. For Dragon, the Lviv site complements their 49-hectare site on the Kyiv-Zhytomyr highway where an industrial park is in the planning stages. “We are ready to start construction of new Class A facilities in our industrial parks in the coming years,” says Dragon CEO Tomas Fiala.

The ban on shopping during three weekends in November cost Ukrainian shopping malls about $250 million, the Ukrainian Council of Shopping Centers told Interfax-Ukraine. The 30-40% drop in weekend sales was partially offset by 10-20% increases on Fridays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Epicenter, one of the nation’s largest retailers, lost 750,000 weekend visits and $35 million in weekend sales, says Vladimir Goncharov, Epicenter’s director of retail trade. The drop in sales will ripple through the economy effecting 5,000 suppliers, largely Ukrainian, and sales tax payments.

Business without Barriers” is a movement promoted by First Lady Olena Zelenska to reduce the physical and psychological barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in the work force and society at large. A declaration of support was signed this week by representatives of: Ukrposhta, Oschadbank, Ukrzaliznytsia, Auchan, 1+1 Media, DTEK, Socar, work.ua, ATB, and Danone. Ukrzaliznytsia said it is making stations, platforms and trains easier for travellers in wheelchairs, the elderly and parents with small children.

DTEK says that almost 3,000 of its 70,000 employees have disabilities,We are actively introducing the best services for our clients so that our services are as accessible as possible,” says DTEK CEO Maxim Timchenko. DTEK, the largest private investor in Ukraine’s energy sector, became Ukraine’s first company to join ‘The Valuable 500,’ an international movement dedicated to improving the integration of employees and clients with disabilities.

 

  • Weekend Shopping Ban Lifted
  • Ukraine to go to Eurobond Market for $1 billion
  • FDI Drops Sharply
  • Ship Cargo Holds Steady

Ukrainians can look forward to a normal shopping, probably through Friday Dec. 25, the western Christmas. Prime Minister Shmygal said November’s weekend shopping bans had cut the spread of the coronavirus.

Yesterday morning, 13,141 new cases were announced, down from a daily average of 16,500 late last week. However, in Kyiv Mayor Klitschko said that a record 1,735 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed. Eight months after the first cases were confirmed in Ukraine, “about 3% of Ukraine’s population of Ukraine have already had COVID-19,” Deputy Health Minister Iryna Mykychak tells Telegraf media outlet.

With a big budget funding gap looming, Ukraine may tap the international Eurobond market for up $1 billion in short term financing, Prime Minister Shmygal tells Korrespondent news site. He asserts the IMF will announce the date of its review mission in coming days. This would indicate that the $5 billion Stand By Agreement signed six months ago is back on track. Shmygal also said the government could sell $2 billion worth of Hryvnia bonds in coming weeks. Last Tuesday, the government sold $93 million worth of Hryvnia bonds.

Timothy Ash writes from London: “Surprised it took them so long given the strength of global beta which has seen Ukraine’s borrowing costs in the Eurobond market crash 200bps lower over the past month or so. The appetite for yield is so strong post US elections that people are willing to look beyond challenges in individual country stories – and in Ukraine’s case — challenges to the anticorruption agenda, which is stalling IMF lending…Markets may not be so forgiving in 2021, so they really need to use the window being provided by cheap global financing conditions to crack on with those much needed reforms. Not entirely sure why you would only do a six month issue – market feels open to 5Y or 10y deal, and not sure that six months down the line pricing will be much cheaper.” 

Through October, Ukraine has attracted $221 million in new direct foreign investment — 5% of the $4.5 billion attracted during the first 10 months of last year, the National Bank of Ukraine reported. Similarly, reinvestment by foreigners also fell sharply during the same period: to $639 million, from $2.9 billion this time last year. Foreign loans also plummeted to $219 million, from $640 million last year, the central bank reports. Analysts put the blame on the coronavirus recession and on the stalling of Ukraine’s movement to clean up the judiciary and implement free market changes.

Corporate raiding — stealing companies through forgeries or force — is up slightly this year compared to last year, reports Ukrinform, citing data from Opendatabot, the online registry. Through October, 751 corporate raids were recorded in Ukraine, almost the same number as for all of last year. Three quarters were attempted through forged documents. This year 45% of cases go to court.

Ukrzaliznytsia plans to spend almost $1 billion next year on repairing locomotives, cars, and track — almost three times the money spent this year. As posted on the state railroad’s site, financing would be: 55% from UZ’s funds; 31% from bond sales; and 14% from the state budget.  According to Vladimir Zhmak, UZ’s new CEO, the railroad will probably end this year with a $500 million loss, largely due to lost passenger ticket sales. Last year, the railroad recorded a profit of $110 million.

Despite the corona recession, cargo handled by Ukraine’s seaports is up by 1% yoy. Through November, the ports handled 146 million tons. Confirming Ukraine’s reliance on exports of raw materials, grain and ore exports accounted for 58% of all cargo moving through the ports.

Kyiv’s recently completed September-November was the warmest since local record keeping started in 1881, reports Ukrinform. “The calendar autumn is over but the meteorological winter has not come yet,” reports the Borys Sreznevskyi. Central Geophysical Observatory, located in southern Kyiv. “It will begin when the average daily air temperature starts steadily dropping below 0 °C.” Without any sharp freeze forecast, authorities have extended the Dnipro River shipping season for an unprecedented extra month, to Dec. 31.

 

  • Ukraine Supplies Half of EU’s Migrant Workers
  • EU Nations Invest to Upgrade Ukraine’s Border Crossings
  • Brazil and Ukraine Explore Arms Production Partnerships
  • Turkey and Ukraine Explore Investments in Ports, Roads and Rail
  • Foreign Investors Tiptoe Back to Hryvnia Bond Market
  • Bukovel Opens: Ski Before A Quarantine Stops the Chairlifts

Highlighting Ukraine’s emerging role as the EU’s reserve labor pool, Ukrainians accounted for 55% of the 1.2 million first time residence permits granted last year to all non-EU citizens for work in the EU, according to a new Eurostat report. Last year, 660,000 Ukrainians received these first time work-related permits, a 19% jump over 2018. This was 13 times greater than the next labor source – India, with 50,000 – and 16 times the third ranked country – Belarus, with 41,000. These numbers do not count Ukrainians who are in the EU on long stay visas or the back and forth flood of informal workers who take advantage of the 90-day visa-free regime.

The bulk of the 756,548 Ukrainians who got first time residency in the EU last year went to Poland – 79%. Spreading into the Baltics and around Central Europe, Ukrainians accounted for the top nationality of foreign workers granted residency in eight EU nations:  Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In contrast to the fast growth of Ukrainians, EU ‘initial residence permits’ issued to all nationalities for all reasons increased last year by 6%, to 3 million.

With cross border traffic expected to rebound this spring, assuming vaccines diminish the coronavirus pandemic, EU nations are helping Ukraine upgrade its often outdated border crossings. In coming weeks, EU and Ukrainian experts are to complete a comprehensive survey of Ukraine’s border crossings with its seven land neighbors. Once reforms are adopted the EU will support their implementation to enable border management agencies to offer better service delivery to people, promote regional cooperation, cross-border trade,” the EU’s mission to Ukraine said last week of the 3-year project.

Poland is lending Ukraine €100 million to upgrade the 13 land border crossings between the two nations. The 30 year, low interest loan also will help upgrade Ukraine’s road and rail approaches to the 535 km long joint border. The Rada finally approved enabling legislation for the loan. It was first agreed upon five years ago.

Estonia will help Ukraine install two electronic border crossing systems at two of Ukraine’s busiest land crossings – Chop with Hungary, and Uzhgorod with Slovakia. Using Estonian experience, the goal is to cut lines of cars and pedestrians, according to an agreement signed by Estonia’s Prime Minister, Jüri Ratas, and Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal.

Brazil and Ukraine, two of the world’s second tier arms exporters, started discussing possible joint ventures, the start of a 5-day visit to Ukraine by executives of 13 from Brazil’s top arms producers. Led by Brazil’s Deputy Defense Minister Marcus Dego Rosas Pontis the delegation includes representatives from: Avibrás, Embraer, Imbel, Taurus, Kryptus, Atech, Condor, Nitroquímica, SLO3, Inspirar, Nanonib, Senai Cimatec and Akaer. The Brazilians discussed with their Ukrainian counterparts joint production and modernization of battle tanks; missile systems and air defense equipment; cyber security, ammunition, small arms, drones, aerospace, radar and satellite systems.

This face to face meetings follow a video conference two months ago with the participation of UkrOboronProm executives and Rosas Pontis, who is Brazil’s director of Secretariat for Defense Products. “It will be a two-way road,” Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries Oleh Urusky wrote on Facebook. “Our countries are launching a new area of cooperation that has great prospects.”

Ending a 2-day trip to Turkey, Prime Minister Shmygal told reporters that his delegation invited Turkish companies to participate in concessions for international highways and for two Black Sea ports. In meetings in Istanbul and Ankara, he invited Turkish investors to build high speed passenger rail lines, housing for Crimean Tatars displaced from Crimea, and modern city hospitals. Ukrinform reports that the highway section that Shmygal pitched to Turkish construction companies is the Brody-Lviv-Krakovets highway, a heavily trafficked, 250 km section of the M10 that now takes four hours.

As Ukraine’s defense partnership with Turkey extends to the air, the air forces of the two nations have discussed the possibility of data exchange “including airspace monitoring” under NATO’s Air Situation Data Exchange program, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reports. Turkey is a member of NATO.  Both countries plan to develop gas fields in their sectors of the Black Sea. Ukrinform reports: “The parties agreed on possible mutual exchange of technical data for monitoring the airspace of exclusive economic zones, which will allow Ukraine to assess the situation in its own exclusive economic zone, preventing possible threats from the Russian Federation.”

With Turkish investors interested in buying one quarter of shares of jet engine maker Motor Sich, the original Chinese buyers plan to appeal their third rejection by Ukraine’s Antimonopoly Committee. Kharkiv’s DCH Group, minority partners of the Chinese group, say they are appealing the Committee’s latest rejection, saying it was based on ‘formalities.’

Defying the recession, Ukrzaliznytsia, the nation’s main cargo hauler, carried 7% more freight in November than in November of last year. Approaching the railroad’s target of 1 million tons a day, UZ carried 27 million tons during the first 29 days of November, reports the Center for Transportation Strategies. Domestic traffic, largely to the seaports, was up 21%, to 13 million tons. Turnover time for freight cars was cut by one third, to 7.8 days. Freight train speeds increased by 5%, to 35 km/h.

At auction, the Finance Ministry sold the hryvnia equivalent of $93 million in government bonds. The 3-month bond was the most popular, accounting for 74% of sale, the Ministry reported on Facebook. It had a weighted average return of 9.89%. The return on 1-year bonds was 10.93%, up 17 basis points from one week earlier. The volume sold was only 16% of last week’s partly because the Ministry face $350 million worth of redemptions that week.

ICU gives this insight into the November 24 auction: For the first time since the end of February, foreigners’ portfolios rose during a week, albeit by a small amount. The increase amounted to just UAH182m (US$6m) … It looks like the main reason for such purchases is an increase in global demand for risk-on assets amid relatively moderate hryvnia exchange-rate fluctuations last week. This could provide incentive for some foreigners to purchase bills at primary market, given rates started at 10%, in expectation that the hryvnia will not weaken or even appreciate.”

Bolstered by fresh snow, Bukovel, Ukraine’s largest mountain resort, opened last weekend for skiing and snowboarding. “We invite you to the Ukrainian Carpathians,” Bukovel director Oleksandr Shevchenko wrote on Facebook. “There is no virus here, just fresh air.” Actually, Ivano-Frankivsk region has recorded 36,434 coronavirus cases since mid-March. It is not known if ski areas will be effected by the general lockdown, forecast for late December.

 

  • China’s Trade With Ukraine Soars to Double Russia’s Trade
  • Ze’s Deputy Chief of Staff Sings Way Off Key as President Courts IMF
  • $200 Million Rebuild Moves Ahead for Dnipro Airport

China has roared ahead of Russia to account for twice as much of Ukraine’s trade this year, reports the State Statistics Service. For this year through August, China-Ukraine two-way trade totaled $9.4 billion. Russia trade totaled $4.8 billion. Germany was just behind, with $4.6 billion. The next four were: Poland – $4.5 billion; Turkey – $2.9 billion; Belarus – $2.5 billion; and United States – $2.5 billion.

DHL will create “a powerful logistics center” in Kyiv’s left bank Liski rail hub for container trains going to and from China, Ukrzaliznytsia CEO Volodomyr Zhmak writes of a memorandum of cooperation signed between the state railroad and DHL Global Forwarding. To open up new east-west routes, UZ is finalizing similar agreements with BTLC Germany and Poland’s PKP Cargo Connect. To promote the rail hub near the Darnytsia rail station, Zhmak appointed last month Edvins Berzins, former chairman of Latvian Railways, to be executive director of what is formally called the Liski Transport Service Center. After starting last June, container trains now run almost weekly from China to Liski. Around Ukraine, there are now 36 routes regularly plied by container trains.

In “I Have Never Seen So Many Toadstools. A Bumper Crop of Mushrooms in Ukraine,” Wall Street Journal reporter Brett Forrest recounts the down to the wire race to stop the Nord Stream 2 trans-Baltic gas pipeline, a line seen as rendering Ukraine defenseless against full-fledged Russian intervention. In the 1,800-word story, one villain emerges: US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin. Forrest writes: “Mr. Mnuchin, whose department enforces sanctions, was opposed, these former officials said. ‘He was a big hang-up at every turning point,’ said one.” Two Washington lobbyist heroes emerge: Vadym Glamazdin, a government-relations official with Naftogaz, and Oleksandr Kharchenko, an official at Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

With the Democrats returning to power in the White House, David Arakhamia, head of the Servant of the People Rada faction, hopes that Joe Biden will resume an Obama era practice of extending US guarantees to $1 billion in Ukrainian 5-year Eurobonds. The Obama Administration did this three times at the height of Ukraine’s post-Maidan financial crisis – in May, 2014, in May, 2015 and on Sept. 23, 2016, just before the election that brought in Donald Trump. With the US guarantee, the last bond carried the lowest rate in Ukraine’s history – 1.471%. With Ukraine’s reserves recovering the Trump Administration refused to refinance the first two issues. They were repaid in full.

Ukraine’s faces a bulge in repayments next fall, and Arakhamia tells Interfax-Ukraine that he hopes a Biden Administration will roll over the $1 billion bond coming due in September. “We hope that with the arrival of the new White House administration, we will be able to agree with our strategic partners on refinancing this loan,” Arakhamia tells the news agency. Ukraine’s international reserves are $24.5 billion.

No IMF funding for Ukraine until Zelenskiy earns trust,” headlines a stinging critique of the Zelenskiy government by Anders Aslund, the Swedish-American economist who has been watching Ukraine for 30 years. “If the Ukrainian government does not fundamentally revise its current economic policy and political trajectory, it is unlikely to receive any IMF, World Bank, or European Union funds for as long as Volodymyr Zelenskiy remains president,” Aslund writes in an Atlantic Council Ukraine blog. “Zelenskiy does not appear to grasp that the IMF takes its conditions seriously and does not want to be treated as just a source of cheap credits. Unlike the Ukrainian government, it is focused on structural reforms so that the Ukrainian economy can start growing at five to eight percent a year, rather than at minimal rates.”

The Zelenskiy administration’s effort to get back on track with the IMF hit an unexpected bump when Oleg Tatarov, deputy head of the administration, said that the National Anti-Corruption Bureau does not serve Ukraine’s interests and that its head Artem Sytnyk doesn’t have “the moral right” to run the agency and should be replaced. The next day, the Zelenskiy administration hurried out a statement saying Tatarov’s statement was: “His personal opinion that does not reflect the administration’s official position.”

The Anti-Corruption Bureau was created with Western advice and financing. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly assured the IMF that it will be retained. Two weeks ago, Zelenskiy met with G7 ambassadors and assured them that Sytnyk would stay on the job. This week, the Rada is to vote on a bill that would guarantee the Bureau’s survival and Sytnyk’s role as head. In Washington, analysts predict that the Biden administration will use ‘tough love’ on Ukraine – conditioning support on free market, EU-standard reforms.

Ten Turkish and Ukrainian construction companies have applied to take part in the $200 million rebuild of Dnipro airport, reports Kyrill Khomyakov, head of Ukrinfraproekt, the State Agency for Infrastructure Projects. Qualified companies are to take part in a competitive tender. Expected to take several years, the project involves building a new concrete runway, jet taxiing aprons, lighting, navigational aids and a perimeter fence. Next year’s budget has allocated $50 million, or one quarter of the money.

Controlled by the Ihor Kolmoisky group, Dnipro airport has languished, recording Ukraine’s 7th largest volume of passengers last year. In 2019, Dnipro handled 338,888 passengers, sandwiched between Zaporizhia, at 434,000, and Kherson at 154,046. Separately, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krykliy reported from Istanbul that a Turkish construction company wants to modernize Kherson airport, which is served by Turkish Airlines.

In Switzerland, airplane pilots who are unable to fly during the coronavirus pandemic may soon retrain to become train drivers.  With the support of Aeropers, the nation’s main union for cockpit employees, Swiss Federal Railways and Edelweiss Air are studying a pilot retraining. While dozens of jets are grounded in Switzerland this winter, the state-owned railroad is cancelling trains due to lack of staff. Converting a jet pilot into a locomotive engineer is expected to take less than one year.

In Berlin, DHL has painted its trademark yellow and red colors on 10 idle tour buses and converted them into ‘paketbussen.’ The parcel buses, including six double deckers, will receive and deliver packages to customers standing outside, minimizing contagion. Logistik Watchblog quotes Berlin’s Governing Mayor, Michael Müller, saying: “The parcel business, which will reach a new dimension due to the corona Christmas, is specifically facilitated with the paketbussen. It helps us to further reduce contacts.”

 

  • Corona Lockdown is ‘90%’ Sure for December
  • Canada’s Vermilion Pulls out of JV With Naftogaz
  • Thanks to Global Warming, Dnipro Shipping Season Gets a One-Month Extension
  • As Ukraine Buys Turkey’s Battle-Tested Drones, Ukraine’s Top Diplomat Says the Black Sea Neighbors are ‘On the Same Page’

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. 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 this week, Arakhamia told reporters. 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 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.

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.

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 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. “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. 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.

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: “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.

The original English version is from our partner UBN – Ukraine Business News. For more information and news archive, go to: www.ubn.news.

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