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Editor’s Note: The following is the latest 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. It’s free.
Russia’s war against Ukraine
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Kyiv and Berlin on Jan. 18-20. to reaffirm the U.S.’s support for Ukraine in the face of further Russian invasion. He will then meet with German Foreign Minister Baerbock to discuss potential actions to halt Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Government to create 150 Territorial Defense battalions. The ministry announced that Ukraine’s brand new Territorial Defense Force will be made up of 25 regional brigades, containing a total of over 150 battalions, each composed of up to 600 soldiers. Men and women between 18 and 60, including foreign citizens who have lived in Ukraine for five years, are eligible to join.
Russia moves troops to Belarus ahead of February joint military drills. The move is likely meant to stir Western fears that Moscow is preparing to further invade Ukraine.
British tank killers sent to Ukraine are NLAWs. They are a type of man-portable, short-range, fire-and-forget missile system used by the U.K. and a number of other militaries across the world. Here’s what we know about them.
Read our special report: Germany digs in heels against harder measures to restrain Russia.
In other news
Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast reports highest rates of Covid-19 hospitalization in Ukraine, according to the health ministry. The region entered the orange quarantine zone, the second-worst of four categories, earlier on Jan. 13, while Covid-19 hospitalization numbers have been increasing in the oblast over the past three days. It is currently on the brink of entering the red zone.
Yermak aide resigns, accuses Zelensky of violating election promises. Oleksiy Arestovich, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky's chief of staff Andriy Yermak, announced his resignation late on Jan. 17. He also stepped down as one of Ukraine’s representatives at the Trilateral Contact Group, which is in charge of the Minsk negotiations regarding Russia's war against Ukraine. Arestovich accused Zelensky and his team of excessive bureaucracy and failure to reform.
Business Ombudsman Council received nearly 2,200 complaints in 2021, 26% higher than 2020. Issues around taxation (1,356 of complaints) remained the most common problem for companies, according to Business Ombudsman and former Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine Roman Waschuk. Businesses most often complained about the actions of law enforcement agencies (14% of all complaints) and state regulators (6%). The work of local governments and customs services worried businesses less, 4% and 3% respectively.
State Property Fund will re-run Elektronmash privatization auction. The fund will try once again on Jan. 27 to sell the 56-year-old electronics plant in Kyiv after a failed attempt in November 2021. Standing on an 18-hectare land plot, the starting price of the iconic factory, which used to produce computers during the Soviet era, will be $2.3 million.
Ukrainian bonds plunge by up to 4.6% amid Russia’s military buildup. Scared by the climate instilled by a potential full-scale invasion by Russia, investors began to massively sell their bonds. The yield on securities due to maturity in September 2022 soared to 26.55% at selling auctions on Jan. 17, after a level 19.67% on Jan. 14. Such levels could hurt Ukraine’s economy in the long-term, undermining the government’s capacity to deal with its budget deficit, utility and food prices.
Retail giant Epicenter secured $120 million loan from the European Investment Bank to invest into agribusiness. The company, which is Ukraine’s seventh largest landowner, will use the nine-year loan to buy new elevators for grain and oilseeds. The EIB's investment portfolio also includes other Ukrainian agricultural giants – Nibulon, Astarta-Kyiv, Kernel Group and Agrofusion Group – totaling $ 440 million. The EIB stated that the loan will help Epicenter, which is owned by tycoons Oleksandr and Halyna Gerega, to create 300 new jobs.
Low-cost airlines canceling flights from Ukraine- 37 flight routes from Ukraine have been canceled by airlines Ryanair and Wizzair due to staff shortages and low demand caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19. Ryanair flights will not depart from Kharkiv until the end of February at the earliest.
Azur Air Ukraine to launch new routes to Greece, Italy, Spain and Cyprus. The charter airline, based at Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv, has been granted permission from the State Aviation Service of Ukraine to further expand its network. The company is allowed to fly five times a week to Italy, Spain, Cyprus, and two destinations in Greece, while flights to four other routes in Greece can only be operated three times a week.
State-owned defense giant UkrOboronProm increased production by 24% in 2021, according to the company’s press service. The total annual production of weapons and other military goods such as armored vehicles and aircraft increased year-on-year by $260 million, reaching $1.4 billion. The company, which is authorized by the state to supply the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said that aircraft development was its most successful sector. The volume of production and other services, such as repairs, amounted to $552 million – 34% more than last year.
Ukrposhta to acquire Alpari Bank, the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine announced on Jan. 18. Receiving a banking license has long been a goal of the state postal service. Ukrposhta is already providing financial services like pension payments and money transfers, but with the banking license it could open customer accounts, issue payment cards, and accept deposits. Being able to provide financial services will also allow Ukrposhta to compete with privately-owned postal service Nova Poshta, which already offers many of those services.
Samsung has opened an official online store in Ukraine, according to the company’s press service. For over 25 years, the company distributed its devices through a network of Ukrainian partner stores, including Rozetka, Allo, or Comfy. Among the benefits of buying Samsung’s tech from the official online store are various discounts, an official warranty, and free delivery by Nova Poshta.
Tycoon Vasyl Khmelnytsky acquires Kyiv-based programming school Ucode IT academy, Forbes Ukraine reported on Jan. 18. Prior to this, Khmelnytsky already owned 78% of the school’s shares, while his business partner Vitaly Gorovy owned 22%. Khmelnytsky was keen to run ucode as an altruistic project, while Gorovy wanted to make it a business.
Ex-Kazakh president speaks publicly for first time since Jan. 5 uprising. In a Jan. 18 video address, former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev denied having left Kazakhstan and having a conflict with incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Nazarbayev also said Tokayev would replace him as the ruling party's leader.