• Expecting Covid Infections to Ease, PM Promises to Get Ukraine Back to Work in May
  • DTEK To Stop Ukraine’s Largest Coal Mine
  • Shakeup at UZ as S&P Downgrades State Railroad

Starting this month, government salaries are to be capped at $1,700 a month, or $20,000 a year, President Zelenskiy announced Friday night in a video address touching on the new budget. “All public officials should tighten their belts,” he said, stressing the new cap applies to board member of state companies, Rada members, judges, prosecutors and central bank officials.

Ukraine’s publicly confirmed Covid-19 cases hit 2,777 Sunday morning, up 47% since Thursday morning. There are 83 dead. In Kyiv, the number of infected is 416, up by 24% since Thursday morning. Of the total infected, medical workers account for 12%, or 334, says Health Minister Maksym Stepanov. In the armed forces, there are now 18 cases, none of them in the Donbas conflict zone.

Public health authorities predict the pandemic will peak in Ukraine this week. With orthodox Easter next Sunday, health and political authorities are encouraging worshippers to stay home and to follow services on television. Similarly, many religious leaders urge the faithful to postpone remembrance visits to cemeteries, traditional in the days after Easter.

Sixty percent of Ukrainian Facebook users interviewed last week say they have only enough savings to get them through the May holidays, reports Postmen, a digital ad agency. Of the 800 participants in the Facebook poll, 47% said they have cut purchases of clothing, 41% have put off buying vacations, and one third are not buying event tickets. The May holidays end Tuesday May 12.

After the May holidays, Ukraine will start “going back to work,” Prime Minister Shmygal said Saturday on his Telegram channel. This week, he promises to unveil a detailed plan: easing public transportation curbs in May and then, in June, creating 500,000 new jobs and extending easy credit to small and medium businesses. Separately on a conference call to mayor and regional administrators on Friday, Shmygal said: “We must prepare new social standards of life after tough quarantine measures: to develop new transport standards, new norms of social distance and of staying in enclosed spaces.”

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In Poland’s coronavirus economy, farms and building sites desperately need Ukrainian workers, but shuttered stores, restaurants and hotels are happy not to have to pay salaries to idled workers, the Financial Times reports in a report from Warsaw:  “Poland’s Ukrainian workers rush home amid pandemic.” “It’s our number one problem,” says Cezary Maczka, executive Budimex, Poland’s biggest construction company. The FT calls the rush home “a striking reversal of an exodus to the west that had been one of Europe’s biggest recent migrations.”

With inflation growing in March at 2.3% y-o-y, Ukraine could end the year within the target range of 4-6%, writes Oleksiy Blinov, head of research for Alfa-Bank Ukraine. Keeping inflation down, demand is weak due to the coronavirus economy and to low oil and gas prices. The big upside risk is the government printing money to cover the deficit of the new coronavirus budget. Blinov predicts Ukraine’s low first quarter inflation will prompt the central bank to cut the prime interest rate next week by another 100 basis points, to 9%. On April 23, the National Bank of Ukraine has its scheduled monetary policy review meeting.

DTEK Energo is considering suspending work at Pavlogradugol, Ukraine’s largest coal mining complex and employer of 30,000 miners, Dmitry Sakharuk, a DTEK executive, tells Interfax-Ukraine. On April 1, DTEK suspended work at three other mining complexes Belozerska, Dobropolyeugol, and Oktyabrska. Citing low energy prices, DTEK Energo announce March 27 it was halting debt payments and starting restructuring talks with creditors.

Ukraine ended its winter heating season with reserves at 15.8 billion cubic meters – the highest level in 30 years and twice the average level of the last five heating seasons. Although European gas prices are down 60% y-o-y, Ukraine is expected to buy little gas before the next heating season starts, usually late October. Alfa-Bank Ukraine concludes: “All this turns natural gas from every year’s word of macroeconomic worries into just a moderate-sized item of imports.”

The Infrastructure Ministry has asked the Cabinet of Ministers to approve Ivan Yurik as acting CEO of Ukrzaliznytsia, reports Liga.Business. Since June, Yurik is the board member of the state railroad responsible for attracting investment. Previously, he worked for UkraineInvest, the Finance Ministry and Blackstone.

Separately, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krikliy criticized the interim management of UZ for failing to move proactively to sell non-core assets, to restructure loans and to cut tariffs to attract users for 15,000 idle freight wagons. “They just wasted time and generated losses,” he complained in an interview with RFE/RL about Željko Marček, the interim CEO who was let go on April 2.

S&P Global Ratings downgraded the long-term issuer default rating of Ukrzaliznytsia to the level of CCC from B-, the agency said Friday. S&P says the state railroad has one year to pay off $400 million in loans, including $200 million in July. S&P said: “We consider the liquidity of the company as weak, because we believe that the problems associated with COVID-19 may limit access to capital markets and affect the ability to generate cash flow from operating activities.“

  • World Bank Sees Growth Returning Next Year
  • Poland Jumps Through Hoops to Get Ukrainian Workers to Stay
  • Covid to Peak Between the Two Easters
  • UIA Asks for $50 Million Bailout
  • The Mriya Flies Again

The World Bank predicts that Ukraine’s economy will shrink this year by 3.5%. This moderate forecast is contingent on the virus subsiding in the second half of the year and on Ukraine reaching an agreement with the IMF. If those two conditions are met, the Bank says, Ukraine’s economy should return to its path of moderate growth, growing next year by 3%. In 2019, Ukraine’s GDP grew by 3.2%, and in 2018, by 3.4%.

The Rada is to meet Monday to debate two items needed for an IMF deal: a revised state budget, and, the ‘anti-Kolomoisky’ financial bill. All 16,335 amendments to the financial bill are to be ‘technically processed’ by the end of last Friday, Voice MP Yaroslav Zheleznyak, member of the Rada finance committee, tells Interfax-Ukraine. This week, the government plans to try to win passage of this bill under a special expedited procedure, writes Concorde Capital.

To help Ukraine’s beleaguered energy producers during the quarantine period, the government has placed a 65% duty on most coal imports from Russia and has stopped electricity imports from Russia and Belarus through May 24.

About 10% of Ukrainians working in Poland have come home in the last three weeks, estimates Through Tuesday, 143,200 left Poland, according to Agnieszka Golias, spokeswoman of Poland’s State Border Service. Last year, Ukraine’s embassy in Warsaw estimated 1.5 million Ukrainians were working in Poland. To encourage Ukrainians to stay, Poland’s Health Ministry says that all will receive free Covid-19 tests and, if positive, free treatment. Poland’s Sejm recently approved an anti-crisis program that gives labor migrants automatic extensions of work visas and residence cards for the length of the epidemic, plus 30 days.

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov warns in a video on the ministry’s Facebook page: “To put it simply, the number of patients is increasing so much that there are not enough doctors to help them, nor medicines, nor beds in hospitals.”

The peak is expected this week, between this Sunday’s Western Easter and the following Sunday’s Orthodox Easter. Authorities encourage faithful to watch Eastern services from home. Police ask visitors to cemeteries to wear medical masks and to not go in groups. Ukrposhta plans free delivery of Easter cakes. On Thursday, Zelenskiy cited a survey that said 70% of Ukrainians support the government’s lockdown measures and only 3% plan to go to church at Easter.

In the post-Covid world, “Ukraine [has]a unique opportunity to become a key Eurasian technology, infrastructure, manufacturing and agribusiness nexus, a critical link in the new 21st century global supply chain economy,” Daniel Bilak, former head of UkraineInvest, writes in a forward looking piece in the Kyiv Post. Bilak calls for ‘doubling down’ on the digitization of Ukraine’s economy and creation of an Infrastructure Investment Authority “to leverage the approximately $6 billion in unspent international financial institution funding to promote financing necessary to build roads, ports, bridges, railway and river logistics and power generation plants.”

UIA has asked the government for a $50 million stabilization loan from a state bank at a discounted interest rate of 5%-6%, CEO Yevhen Dykhne tells Interfax news service. The airline expects to lose a minimum of $60 million this year due to travel curbs used to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Dykhne also said talks are ongoing with UIA’s owners for support. The airline is believed to be controlled by Ihor Kolomoisky.

UIA is working through 27,000 calls from passengers seeking to re-book or get refunds on tickets for travel during the quarantine, Dykhne tells Interfax-Ukraine. Quarantine regulations forced the airline to close its call center, which employed up to 600 operators in an open space format. Instead, requests are largely handled by email, by about 100 people day. Dykhne expects Ukraine’s air market to contract this year by 30-40%.

If the coronavirus shutdowns continue through June, half of the world’s airlines will disappear, Alexandre de Juniac, director general of the International Air Transport Association warns in an interview with France Info. Airlines face $35 billion worth of ticket returns and will need $61 billion to get through the second quarter. Separately, Ukraine’s aviation industry will lose about $500 million in the crisis, estimates the Aviation Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ukraine.

To speed delivery of Ukrainian mail orders from China, China’s AliExpress has started two cargo flights a week to Riga, Latvia. From there, Ukrposhta has contracted Ukraine’s Eleron airlines to fly packages to the new international air delivery hub in Lviv. “The first such aircraft will bring 4.1 tons of parcels,” Igor Smelyansky, CEO of the state postal service, wrote yesterday on Facebook.

Ukraine’s An-225 Mriya, the world’s largest aircraft, returns to commercial service, landed last Wednesday at Warsaw Chopin Airport. Flying from China, the Mriya will carry 7 million P2 masks, several hundred thousand protective suits and several hundred thousand helmets, reports Poland’s Rynek Lotniczy. KGHM Polska Miedź and Grupa Lotos have a contract to deliver 400 tons of medical cargo, a volume that necessitates several Mriya flights from China. Until March, the Mriya was out of action for 18 months as the vintage 1988 cargo giant underwent a partial modernization.

  • Five Surveys X-ray the Quarantine’s Economic Impact
  • Gov’t Plans $3.5 billion Extra Spending to Combat Impact of Covid Curbs
  • Yermak Promises Rada Action on IMF Bills
  • Boryspil Now a Ghost Town

The quarantine has forced 6% of Ukrainian companies out of business and forced another 29% to suspend operations, according to the Society of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs and the Ukrainian Marketing Group, as reported by OpenDataBot.

One third of business owners, mainly small, report a 90-100% drop in income since the quarantine started March 12. These companies laid off up to 50% of staff, reports OpenDataBot, a research platform that works with open government data.

More than 160,000 restaurant workers are not working due to the quarantine, reports OpenDataBot, citing a study by Poster, the restaurant automation company. Restaurant revenue plunged by 78% in Kyiv and Lviv in the last week in March, compared to the last week in February. Almost half of Ukraine’s 50,000 restaurants have closed for the quarantine, which is expected to last for two months.

The number of new job postings dropped by 85% and the total number of vacancies dropped in half, according to, the job placement agency.

“In addition to risk dying from a coronavirus infection, Ukrainians are much more likely to find themselves in a deep economic crisis,writes OpenDataBot. We are beginning to gather data on Ukrainian business during quarantine – so that all decisions made by the authorities in the name of combating the coronavirus take into account not only the number of deaths, but also the quality of life of those who remain alive.”

In a separate survey of small business, 18% are considering shutting down, 31% are cutting staff, 41% are cutting salaries, reports the European Business Association. The survey is based on interviews with 155 small companies participating in the EBA’s Unlimit Ukraine project.

Turnover will drop by up to 50% in the first half of this year, report half of 60 company members surveyed by the Franco-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Of the companies, 60% have put more than half of their staff on work at home status. Half of the companies see cash flow as a big problem during the first semester. But 75% say the quarantine does not threaten their company’s survival in Ukraine.

If the quarantine stretches to the end of May, 44% of 458 Ukrainian companies surveyed nationwide predict they will lose more than 60% of their revenue. Another 38% doubt they can last for two months, according to the survey completed last week by the Advanter Group together with the Ukrainian Institute of the Future. Hardest hit are: restaurants, hotels, private schools, and non-food retail.

One legacy of what looks like a 2-month shutdown will be a permanent increase in telecommuting, according to a survey of 317 financial directors conducted by Gartner, the consulting company. After the pandemic ends, three quarters of the financial directors interviewed said they would move up to 5% of their staff to telecommuting. About one quarter said they plan to have at least 20% of employees telecommute. Businesses save money on real estate. Employees save time and money on commuting.

The government plans to spend $2.5 billion to fight coronavirus and the economic impact of the quarantine, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko, told reporters yesterday. In addition, the new budget includes $1 billion for pension hikes and better pay for medical workers. This new spending is to swell the deficit to $11 billion, or 7.5% of GDP. In the previous budget, this ratio was 2%. Today, the Rada is to start reviewing this new budget.

The European Commission is allocating “more than €190 million” to combat the spread of coronavirus in Ukraine. The money will go to protecting the elderly, expanding online education for students, buying medical protective gear, and combating online disinformation about the pandemic, according to a press release posted yesterday on the Commission’s website.

As the quarantine tightens, people over 60 are asked to stay home, masks must be worn in public, and the Cabinet of Minister has approved restricting Ukrainians from entering and leaving the country.

Simon Cherniavsky, the US-trained CEO of the State Food and Grain Corporation, has resigned after four months in the job, alleging political interference in the state-owned grain trader. Cherniavsky, who directed the turnaround at Mriya Agro Holding for four years, said in a farewell statement: “[The government] and I have different visions of the development of the SFGCU, in particular regarding the corporate governance strategy and protecting the corporation from political interests.” In 2012, the Grain Corporation raised a $3 billion loan from the Export-Import Bank of China.

Ukraine’s average import price of gas in March was 9% lower than in February, reports the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.  Enjoying Europe’s lowest natural gas prices in a decade, Ukrainian companies imported gas in March at an average price of $153.65 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Passenger traffic through Kyiv Boryspil in March was half the volume of one year earlier, reports Avianews. Last month, 486,500 people flew in or out Boryspil, 49.5% less than March 2019. This plunge comes after Boryspil increased passenger traffic last year by 21% y-o-y, hitting 15.3 million people. Today Ukraine’s largest airport is a ghost town, handling air cargo and occasional charter passenger flights.

  • Corona Curbs Could Stretch Into Summer
  • Census Won’t Happen
  • Kolomoisky Faces London Trial Next Year
  • At Home, He Plays Chess in Rada
  • UZ CEO to Go
  • Chinese Air Cargo Booms in Era of Corona

One more coronavirus casualty: the new budget will not fund the national census that was to take place in December, the first in 20 years. The “window of opportunity” for preparing for the 2020 census has passed, Oleh Nemchinov, Minister of the Cabinet, tells UA-Times news site. In January, his predecessor, Dmytro Dubilet, conducted a ‘digital census’ that produced an estimated population for Ukraine of 37.3 million. Ukraine’s population peaked in 1993, at 52.2 million people. The loss of 29% percent of the nation’s population in one generation is due to emigration, low birth rates, and loss of control of Crimea and of the most populous part of the Donbas.

Ukraine’s international reserves fell by almost 8% in March, to $25 billion reports, the National Bank of Ukraine. Most of the $2.1 billion was used to defend the hryvnia. Since then, the central bank has bought $576 million. The dollar currently trades at 27 hryvnia. Last week, the Finance Ministry, for the third time in one month, canceled its weekly auction of government bonds.

The central bank cut its real estate portfolio by almost half a million square meters last year, privatizing or transferring to other government agencies 34 buildings and six land plots. Since 2015, the bank has cut its real estate holdings in half. By 2025, it plans to unload another 400,000 square meters, the National Bank of Ukraine press service tells Interfax-Ukraine.

Ihor Kolomoisky, former owner of PrivatBank, will face trial at London’s High Court, following the UK Supreme Court rejection of his appeal of an October verdict, Reuters reports. PrivatBank predicts the trial on the charge of fraud by prior conspiracy will start next year. The Supreme Court also ruled Monday that Kolomoisky, business partner Hennadiy Boholyubov and six allied companies must pay PrivatBank legal costs from their failed appeal. PrivatBanks new management said after the ruling: “The Bank is confident that it will ultimately succeed in recovering the sum of more than $3 billion claimed in the proceedings.” In legal actions in Cyprus, Israel, UK, and the US, PrivatBank seeks a total of $10 billion from Kolomoisky and his business partners.

Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “The bank and its new owner, the Ukrainian government, have a solid chance for victory in the UK…Kolomoisky and his partners…are likely to grow more aggressive in lobbying the return of Privatbank under their control, seeking favorable decisions from Ukrainian courts. The key impediment to their goal is the IMF-required law on banking resolution (the so-called anti-Kolomoisky law), which is currently being prepared for its second reading in the parliament. These rising stakes in the fight for Privatbank have already reduced the chance for the bill to be approved this month, and in turn decreases the likelihood of IMF and other IFI support for Ukraine arriving soon.”

By orchestrating a record 16,335 amendments to the ‘anti-Kolomoisky’ bill, the oligarch may be trying to “strengthen his negotiating positions and then make a deal,” Sergii Leshchenko, a former Rada member, writes in the Kyiv Post. “It can’t be ruled out that Kolomoisky simply offers the authorities a chance to negotiate on more favorable terms,” writes Leshchenko, now a Post columnist. “It can be just a game to up the ante — for example, an attempt to bargain for the termination of criminal cases in Ukraine or the suspension of cases on PrivatBank abroad, including in London. It is the consequence of a British court that he should fear the most.”

Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy warns: “Over 96% of the amendments have been filed by just seven MPs, all being aligned with Kolomoisky…If IMF support is delayed by six months, the government will face critical liquidity issues.”

Adamant Capital believes a parliamentary solution will found: We continue to believe that this piece of legislation will eventually be passed (most likely within the next two weeks)…All in all, we find [Finance Minister Serhiy] Marchenko’s assessment of the timeframe for the next IMF disbursement (May) to be realistic.”

The last word goes to Kolomoisky who gave a telephone interview to NV (Novoye Vremya). He said he did not organize the Rada amendment campaign: “I would not call this law ‘anti-Kolomoisky,’ but ‘anti-Ukrainian.’ Trading sovereignty and the constitution for 30 silver coins is, however, very expensive.” He said he did not discuss the bill with President Zelenskiy: “I did not discuss at all. People choose their own path. [The IMF] is a path to nowhere, as shown by the experience of their predecessors: Yatsenyuk, Poroshenko, Groysman, and Honcharuk.”

In the latest musical chairs at the top of government, Željko Marček, acting CEO of Ukrzaliznytsia, is being let go after two months on the job, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krikliy, told reporters Tuesday. Krikliy did not clarify why he was firing Marček from the post of running the state railroad, Ukraine’s largest employer. Marček, an ethnic Serbian veteran of Ukraine corporate posts, had been on the UZ board since 2016. Once the quarantine is lifted, Krikliy will hold competitions for the CEO posts at UZ and at the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority. Currently, candidates cannot travel to Kyiv for interviews.

Ukraine’s air passenger traffic will only return to last year’s levels by the end of next year, Krikliy predicts to the European Business Association. “If we start to recover a little in June, then by the end of the year we’ll reach about half of the passenger flow that was earlier,” he said in an online briefing. As for airlines and airports that are dying, he said: “There isn’t enough in the Ukrainian budget to save every enterprise.”

Ukraine would like to have a Chinese airline open direct flights between Ukraine and China, now Ukraine’s largest trading partner, Krikliy told the EBA. UIA dropped its China flights last fall because Russian sanctions requires Ukrainian airlines to fly costly detours around Russian airspace. China is neutral on Russia’s military moves in Ukraine. Chinese airlines fly through Russian airspace. Krikliy said: “I told the Chinese ambassador – both the previous and the new – that we really want Chinese airlines to have direct flights with Ukraine.

“At least seven aircraft from China and South Korea” carrying medical equipment will fly into Ukraine this week, President Zelenskiy said in a video address last night. According to China’s Civil Aviation Administration, the volume of cargo carried last week by Chinese airlines was 17.5% higher than the weekly volume before the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Wheat Propels Surge in Grain Exports
  • EU Money to Upgrade Urban Transit
  • Flatten Kyiv’s Corona Curve? Park the Cars
  • Antonov Air Cargo Booms

Wheat exports are up 56% compared to this time last year. As of Friday, Ukraine has exported 18 million tons, compared to 11.5 million at the same date last year, reports APK-Inform consultancy. Within one month, Ukrainian exporters are expected to reach the export quota of 20.2 million tons. The government recently reaffirmed the quota, fearing a Covid world would buy up Ukrainian wheat, forcing up local bread prices.

Black Sea wheat prices are up about 18% y-o-y, with most of the runup taking place since the coronavirus crisis hit in early March. While the coronavirus pandemic creates logistical roadblocks and rising unemployment, consumers living in lockdown conditions often prefer wheat products because they are cheaper and have longer shelf lives than perishable items, such as fruit and vegetables.

With wheat leading the growth, Ukraine’s overall grain exports – including corn, buckwheat and rye – were up by one third Friday compared to the same time last year. Ukraine has exported a record 45.3 million tons. The USDA recently raised its grain export forecast for this marketing year ending in June to 57.3 million tons – 14% over last year’s level. Last year, Ukraine harvested a record 75.1 million tons of grain – a 7% increase over 2018.

Aside from the cap on wheat exports, Ukraine does not plan to limit other food exports, says Mykola Solskiy, head of Rada’s agrarian and land policy committee. “Ukraine not only fully meets its own needs for all socially significant food products, but is also one of the world’s leading exporters of wheat, corn, barley, and soy,” the Servant of the People party’s press service quoted him Saturday. Noting that food accounted for almost 40% of Ukraine’s food exports last year, he said: “As a result, there is no dollar at 50 hryvnia!”

Spring sowing started on time two weeks ago. To date, 1.3 million hectares have been planted, about 10% of the planned area.

Looking ahead, next fall’s harvest of grain and oilseeds may reach 95 million tons, according to Andriy Kupchenko, analyst at APK-Inform. Although this would be 3% off last year’s crop, the Ukrainian Grain Association predicts that next year’s exports will equal this year’s forecast level of 57 million.

A €400 million urban transit project for Ukraine is being prepared by the European Investment Bank and the EBRD.  Half of the project funding would be a 22-year ‘soft loan’ by the Luxemburg-based European Investment Bank. Much of the money would go for the purchase of 167 trolley buses. Big beneficiaries are to be: Odesa – 47; Kremenchuk – 40; Dnipro – 10; and Kryvyi Rih – 8.

The average oil price paid by Ukraine in March was $31/barrel – 39% below the price paid in February, reports the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture. This year, Ukraine may save $5-6 billion in energy imports this year, calculates Dmytro Sologub, of the central bank. Energy accounts for 20% of Ukraine’s imports.

Finland’s Labor Ministry plans to organize emergency charter flights to bring Ukrainians to Finland to perform seasonal farm work. Foreigners will have to go through quarantine for two weeks before heading to farms, Laura Perheentup, a Labor Ministry official, tells Yle, Finland’s national public broadcaster.

Since last Saturday, UIA has given up use of three Boeings. On Monday, a UIA Boeing 737-800 was returned to its lessor, in Toulouse, France. Last weekend, the airline flew two of its long haul Boeing-777s to Teruel, Spain, where they were put in storage. Currently, 70% of airplane parking space at Boryspil is occupied, largely by planes from five Ukrainian airlines: UIA, SkyUp, Azur Air Ukraine, Windrose, and Bravo.

Antonov Airlines, Ukraine’s largest cargo airline, is fully booked this month, carrying medical cargo from China to the EU in its mammoth Soviet-design cargo planes. SkyUp and UIA, with their fleets otherwise grounded, are taking seats out of passenger jets to carry humanitarian loads. “In the near future we are also planning the first such flight,” UIA President Yevheniy Dykhne writes on Facebook.

Lviv Airport plans to expand international air cargo, working with Kyiv-based Eleron Aviation Company. On Friday, Eleron started flying mail and packages for Ukrposhta from Lviv to Riga, an air cargo hub. After the quarantine is lifted, the airline plans to expand cargo service to cities within a 1,000 km radius of Lviv. Eleron’s target is to carry 40,000 tons of air cargo from Lviv over the next year.


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