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Tired of mayhem at home, Yanukovych flees to China

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Dec. 3, 2013, 7:11 p.m. | Ukraine — by Anastasia Forina

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych speaks to Ukrainian and Russian journalists during an interwiev in Kyiv on Dec. 2, 2013.
© AFP

Anastasia Forina

Thousands of Ukrainians remain on the streets in Kyiv, demanding the resignation of the country’s government as well as its President, Viktor Yanukovych. But the unrest at home did not keep him from sticking to his schedule. This morning Yanukovych left Kyiv for a three-day trip to China, where he plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and secure investment for Ukraine, according to a statement posted to his administration’s website. 

“A large number of deals are planned to be signed, which include investments for Ukraine,” Yanukovych said in a television interview with journalists on Dec.2. “Even though the internal situation is not good for the visits, the economy of the country will lose if I reject it,” he said.    

Any outside help is crucial for cash-starved Ukraine. The country is facing $10.8 billion in external debt repayments by the end of 2014, while its foreign reserves are at a risky $20 billion mark already – less than three months’ worth of imports, which is recommended by the International Monetary Fund. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s gross domestic product isn’t expected to show any growth in 2013. The World Bank forecasts it to be zero, while the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development even expects a 0.5 percent decline.

Moreover, foreign investors are leaving Ukraine. Greek Astra Bank and Swedish Swedbank have sold their subsidiaries in Ukraine this year and more are expected to exit the country soon. Ukraine has shown improvement in the most recent World Bank business ranking, jumping 28 spots, but it remains at the bottom half of the ranking mostly due to bureaucracy and wide-spread corruption. Ukraine remains one of the most corrupt nations. It ranks 144th out of 177 countries in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index released on Dec. 3.

China is one of Ukraine’s biggest trade partners. The trade between countries has exceeded $10 billion in 2012. In 2012 China loaned Ukraine $3 billion for agriculture sector development and $3.7 billion for energy sector projects. Another loan worth $3 billion aimed for restoration of irrigation systems is currently being eyed by Ukraine. Experts, however, question the possibility of closing the deal these days.

“Of course today’s visit is not the best time for strategic negotiations with China,” says Volodymyr Fesenko, Chairman of the Penta Center for applied political studies. “However, taking into account the fact it was arranged before, China could sign (the deal), but it won’t give any money until the political crisis is overcome,” he adds.

By paying the visit instead of cancelling it due to current events, Yanukovych wants to show that he has everything under control in the country, according to Fesenko.

“However, China is not Russia; it doesn’t give money for no reason. Moreover, it’s not financial aid. It’s investment for large-scale projects,” he says.

Kyiv Post staff writer Anastasia Forina can be reached at forina@kyivpost.com. 

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