Editor’s Note: The following is the Dec. 30 edition of the Kyiv Independent’s newsletter, Ukraine Daily. If you would like to receive news about Ukraine in your mailbox six days a week subscribe here.
Russia's war against Ukraine
Biden and Putin to hold call on Dec. 30. According to CNN, U.S. President Joe Biden accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request to speak over the phone on numerous topics, including the upcoming diplomatic talks regarding Ukraine scheduled for Jan. 10. On Dec. 29, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who assured him of U.S. support of Ukraine against possible further Russian invasion. Voice of America reported that Biden will speak with Zelensky over the phone soon. The date hasn’t been set.
US warships remain in Mediterranean amid Ukraine-Russia tensions. Associated Press reported that a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group was ordered to stay in the Mediterranean Sea region rather than move to the Middle East amid fears over Russia’s military buildup on the Ukrainian border. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Moscow has massed 122,000 troops near Ukraine.
Borrell: The EU must be involved in future US-Russia security talks. EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell reportedly stated that discussions about European security must include the entire continent. The minister noted that Russia’s demands were “completely unacceptable,” referring to the Kremlin’s draft pacts about limiting NATO’s influence in Europe.
Russia and Belarus to hold joint military exercises in early 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the drills will take place sometime in February-March. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said that this will be an opportunity to showcase new Russian military hardware that Belarus purchased, as well as demonstrate the close relationship between Russia and Belarus.
Covid-19 in Ukraine
Five new cases of Omicron strain detected in Ukraine. The total number of highly transmissible Covid-19 Omicron variant cases recorded in the country has mounted to six. Two cases were found in Kyiv, two in Kyiv Oblast, one in the western city of Lviv and one in central Dnipro. Ukraine registered its first Omicron patient on Dec. 18.
Ukraine will no longer have ‘total lockdowns.’ Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that thanks to widely accessible Covid-19 vaccines, the country won’t impose strict lockdowns of the kind it had at the beginning of the pandemic. Businesses can continue working even in the strictest ‘red’ quarantine zones if their staff is fully vaccinated, the official said.
Hospital fire kills 3 patients, injures staff in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. The fire occurredin the intensive care unit of Kosiv Central District Hospital on Dec. 28. According to preliminary data, one of the medical staff lit a funeral candle when one of the Covid-19 patients died and accidentally exposed an open flame in a room where five oxygen concentrators were working simultaneously.
US Embassy calls on panel to finish selection of anti-graft prosecutor. The embassy said that the panel should do what’s right for the Ukrainian people by certifying their own selection. Even though the panel had a clear winner of the contest on Dec. 21, it has failed to announce him as the new anti-corruption prosecutor. Activists accused panel members appointed by authorities of sabotaging the selection.
World Bank study reveals effects of global warming in Ukraine. According to the report, the rising temperatures will lead to an increase in extreme weather events such as heatwaves, thunderstorms, flooding, and droughts.
Ukraine’s top achievements in 2021
With only a few days left before the world enters 2022, the Kyiv Independent is looking back at Ukraine's biggest achievements of the past year. Military affairs, some reforms, technology, and sports gave Ukraine reasons to celebrate. Read the story: Ukraine’s top achievements in 2021
Government extends duty on Russian fuel imports. The decision will renew existing duties which were set to expire on Dec. 31. This includes a 4% duty on diesel fuel, 3% on liquid petroleum gas (LPG), and 65% on certain types of coal.
Ukraine’s gas reserves are two times lower than a year ago. As of Dec. 27, the country’s underground storage facilities had 14 billion cubic meters of gas, a 41% drop from last year’s data. Ukraine struggles to cope with rising natural gas prices, which is spurring inflation in Europe and sparking fears of power outages.
Dairy firms warn that soaring energy prices could halt production. Vadym Chagarovsky, who is the chairman of the Union of Dairy Enterprises, asked the state to help the producers combat the energy crisis. He said the dairy industry has been operating at a loss for the last six months and the rising gas prices will shut down most dairy companies in January.
Antimonopoly Committee approves scandalous sale of Bilshovyk plant. The committee gave the green light to the privatization auction winner, General Commerce, affiliated with tycoon Vasyl Khmelnytsky. The company purchased the 35-hectare machinery plant in October at a nearly minimum bid of $51 million and was accused of anti-competitive practices leading to the auction. The committee said it will continue to investigate potential wrongdoing.
DniproAzot plant fined $3 million for stopping production of liquid chlorine in 2018. According to the Antimonopoly Committee, the major chemical plant affiliated with oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, ceased chlorine production being the only producer of the kind at the time.
Antimonopoly Committee imposes $400,000 fine on oligarch Bakhmatyuk’s holding. Avangard egg-producing company, which is a part of the arger Ukrlandfarming agroholding, violated legislation protecting fair economic competition 18 times, accordingto the committee. Ukrlandfarming is owned by Bakhmatyuk, an exiled billionaire who is being sued for embezzlement and money laundering.