6:25 AM Sunday, March 25, 2018 Friday, March 9
Ukraine starts seizing Gazprom assets; IT professionals to double by 2025; Nova Poshta to open 1,000 offices this year; Dry wine exports triple; UK travel company ranks Kyiv as best value of 100 top destinations in world
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Ukraine’s Justice Ministry is seizing Gazprom assets in Ukraine, following the Russian gas company’s refusal to pay Naftogaz $2.6 billion, as ordered Feb. 28 by the Stockholm Arbitration court. According to Ukrinform, the state news service, officers of the ministry’s State Execution Service have seized shares and other property from: Gaztransit, Gazpromzbut Ukraine, Institute Southerngiprogaz and the International Consortium for the Management and Development of the Gas Transit System of Ukraine. The Gaztransit shares are valued at $23 million.

Looking outside Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry is asking all embassies to conduct inventories of attachable Gazprom property. Olena Zerkal, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, told 5th Channel TV: "We have already asked our diplomatic missions for a thorough analysis, turning to all the registries, turning to all open databases in order to find out - where is Gazprom?" Justice Minister Pavel Petrenko told the Cabinet that Ukraine has bilateral treaties with 27 countries that would allow seizure of Gazprom assets to pay the bill. He estimated that the procedure could be completed by the end of this year.

The Ministers are moving on the order of President Poroshenko. On Thursday he tweeted: "On my instructions, the team of lawyers is already working on collecting the appropriate amounts, so if Gazprom does not pay compensation, we will arrest the property!"

Russian news site warns that if Naftogaz impounds Gazprom gas in Austria, Hungary or Slovakia, “Ukraine will involve Europe in a large-scale energy war.” From Moscow, the Rambler analyst writes: “Gazprom will take such a decision as an illegal selection of gas, and in general stop transit through Ukraine, after which Europe will be involved in a full-fledged energy war.”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert tweets praise of Ukraine for resisting Russia’s abrupt gas cutoff last week. "Ukraine citizens have inspired the world by pulling together to reduce gas consumption by 14% last week to ensure reliable gas delivery to European customers," she wrote. "Gas supply and transit must never be a political weapon. We expect Gazprom to supply gas to Ukraine's transit pipeline per Stockholm Arbitration decision. Russia should prove it is a reliable gas supplier.”

In Washington, IMF spokesman Jerry Rice repeated at his regular Thursday briefing the tasks Ukraine needs to complete to restart IMF lending, notably an independent anti-corruption court and market prices for household gas.

President Poroshenko says household electricity bills should not go up. Speaking to three Ukrainian TV channels, he opposes the RAB tariff incentive system designed to encourage power generation companies to modernize. “The Ukrainian people do not have to pay for these troubles,” he says, referring to changes. “And prices for the population should not be raised as a result of these reforms.” For more on RAB tariffs, see Anders Aslund’s analysis at:

Ukraine’s IT professional workforce will more than double, to 242,000, by 2025, estimates the Innovation Forum Lithuania-Ukraine. From 2011 to 2016, the number of IT professionals jumped from 48,000 to 116,000.

At Nova Poshta's new sorting center near Zhuliany airport, the Dutch-designed optic scanner system can read 8,500 bar codes an hour. (UNIAN/Vyacheslav Ratynskiy)

In a big bet on e-commerce, Nova Poshta, the privately owned package delivery company, is opening 1,000 new offices this year, a nearly 40% expansion, Viacheslav Klimov, company founder, tells reporters. Klimov spoke at the opening of a $18.5 million, 15,000 square meter sorting center near Zhuliany Airport in Kyiv. Sorting equipment installed by Vanderlande, a Dutch materials handling company, can sort 350,000 parcels a day. The core is a bar code scanner that can read 8,500 bar codes an hour. Serving the right bank of Kyiv and Kyiv region, the center will employ 750 workers, working in four shifts.

• Low world sugar prices are forcing ED&F Man Ukraine to mothball its Zaselsky sugar mill in Mykolaiv region for two years. "There are no problems with the raw materials base or production. It is the cost of sugar. World prices do not offer any perspectives. We do not see any positive changes in the near future," Igor Buchatskiy, country manager of ED&F Man Ukraine, tells ED&F Man makes money if sugar is at least $400 per ton. Now it is $360 per ton. The London-based company bought the mill in 2009 and invested $40 million in its modernization. On leased land around the plant, the company will replace sugar beets with chickpeas and lentils.

• Exports of raspberries and blackberries increased by 72% last year to 1,238 tons, reports the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food. Despite the big jump, revenues increased by only 15%, to $940,000. Almost all of the berries went to Ukraine’s neighbors: Poland (78%), Belarus (19%), and Romania (3%).

• After the loss of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine’s wine production is reviving with dry wines,AFP reports. Since 2014, production of dry wines has grown by 7 to 9% a year, and exports of non-sparkling wines have tripled, hitting 332,000 decaliters in 2017, according to Ukraine’s Association of Winegrowers and Winemakers. Much of the production is in Zakarpattia, which now holds nine wine festivals every summer, drawing 150,000 tourists, many from neighboring Hungary and Slovakia.

• Joining a flow of capital back to frontline areas,the EBRD is studying projects in Mariupol, the economic capital of government-controlled Donetsk region. After helping finance TeraWatt Group, a local company making command and control systems for industrial plants, the EBRD is studying supporting a modern trolleybus network for this port city of 600,000. It would feature buses with low floors, Wifi access, and GPS tracking. Fresh from a visit to Mariupol, EBRD regional director Francis Malige reports a major economic boost: Shakhtar Donetsk football team is returning from Lviv to its home region, establishing its base this spring at Mariupol’s Volodymyr Boiko Stadium

• Kyiv ranks as the lowest cost of 100 major travel destinationsranked by Hoppa, the UK-based online reservation service for airport transfers. Ranked for a standard basket of travel costs -- hotels, meals, drinks, taxis and entertainment -- Kyiv was the cheapest –$89.50 – and New York was the most expensive -- $478.

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