Coverage of events in Donbass in the media has long been reduced to the publication of official reports on the number of attacks from the opposite side.
However, the war has not ceased to be a war, the number of its victims is constantly growing, and no one is going to restore the 4-year-ago destruction.
Ordinary Ukrainians continue to pay military fees from their meager income, introduced in 2014 by Arseniy Yatsenyuk as a TEMPORARY measure to finance ATO, which they officially managed to rename JFO.
Meanwhile, the top-10 participants in ranking of the most affluent Ukrainian businessmen are doing well. They finally came out of the postmaidan crisis and even returned to foreign investment.
Or they simply adapted to the new specifics of warring country – which officially is not at war.
Firtash as a diagnosis
A major accident at the Crimean Titan association in September, which had contaminated the surrounding part of Kherson oblast with its emissions, reminded about the illegal business of the Group DF owner Dmytro Firtash again.
The company is located in the city of Armyansk on the annexed peninsula – but continues to obtain raw materials for its work from mainland Ukraine as if nothing had happened.
This is ilmenite, production of the Group DF mining and processing works in Zhytomyr oblast. Meanwhile, as early as December 2015, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine prohibited any trade and business operations with companies on the peninsula for Ukrainian contractors.
In this particular case, the formalities are met: ilmenite is shipped to the address of intermediary companies, including the Moscow OOO Titanium Investments. And it resells it to the Crimean Titan.
However, the chain exists only on paper. But in reality, raw materials from the Mezhyrichensk and Valki-Ilmenite mining and processing works go straight from the Zhytomyr oblast to Crimea through the port of Kerch.
This is despite the fact that on June 23, 2017, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko demanded that local regional prosecutor Lyubomir Voitovich stop this scheme at a meeting in Zhytomyr.
"OOO Valki-Ilmenite operates on the territory of Zhytomyr oblast. It is an opencast mine that supplies raw materials to the occupied Crimea to the Crimean Titan enterprise. Tell me why is it still there? Are you worried so much about the income of Firtash and occupied Crimea? I don't understand this: you were banned from the extraction of strategic raw materials! Why do you supply it to the occupied Crimea? Valki-Ilmenite has no right to extract raw materials – and you must ensure this together with the police", - the head of the PGOU stated at the time addressing to L.Voitovich.
Specification: sanctions against companies supplying ilmenite from Ukraine to Armyansk were introduced only in April 2017 – "only" 3 years after annexation of the peninsula.
But after that, the shipment of raw materials continued in the same volume. In this regard, it is curious how the SBU has now responded to a media inquiry regarding what measures are being taken to prevent illegal shipments from the territory of Ukraine to the Crimean Titan.
"Measures for the implementation of these sanctions are carried out by the SBU within the competence", - the response of the special services, published on September 24 this year, said.
That is, this is a bureaucratic speak that NOTHING is being done. Of course, the SBU may refer to the special nature of its activities, the details of which are not subject to disclosure.
But no one asks for the addresses of safe houses or passwords of secret agents along with their passport data.
After all, the SBU cannot say in clear that the secret service is inactive. Hence, there is such a streamlined and indefinite formulation, devoid of specificity, which society requires.
Alas, it must be confessed: with such a lax approach to demonstration of separatism on the part of the state authorities, Ukraine will not return the Crimea.
Well, since the fish rots from the head, then identical processes take place at the lowest level of Ukrainian economy.
For example on October 4, the same SBU revealed a company that for 4 years (!) had been supplying angular rock from the Ukrainian quarry to the Russian OAO Mostozhelezzobetonkonstruktsya.
This association participated in the construction of Kerch Bridge across the strait of the same name from Russian territory to the annexed Crimea.
Only in this case, since we are still talking about "pawns", the activity of the quarry (still, incidentally, owned by a citizen of the Russian Federation) is at least temporarily suspended – unlike supplies to the Crimean Titan.
What, to be true, does not cause much joy, recalling the analogy of the police who catch the pickpocket who stole $2 in public transport – and "do not notice" the multimillion embezzlement of high-ranking officials.
It should come as no surprise that that ex-regional (former member of the Party of Regions – ed.) Serhiy Tihipko takes to like a duck to water with the current "patriotic" authorities. After Euromaidan, he has already made a number of acquisitions in the financial sector.
In particular, he bought the Lviv VS Bank, owned by Russians, as well as Universal Bank, owned by the Greek branch of the Swiss EFG Group.
In addition, the ex-deputy prime minister regained control over the Dneprometiz association, having bought it out from the Russian Severstal group – which he had previously sold the asset to.
In 2006, the "reformer" (as S.Tihipko positioned himself in the government of M.Azarov) sold Dneprometiz for $50 million, then in November 2017, he paid… $500 thousand for it, or 100 times less.
Thus, the net profit of the former "regional" in this operation with representatives of the aggressor country was $49.5 million.
However, his last transaction is unlikely to be just as profitable.
As it became known on September 27, S.Tihipko's TAS group tentatively agreed to purchase the Kuznya on Rybalsky (formerly – Leninska Kuznya) ship building plant.
Prime Assets Capital investment fund from the orbit of Ukrprominvest group of President Petro Poroshenko is in the role of the seller. The amount of the transaction is not specified by the parties, but it is obvious that P.Poroshenko just got rid of the ballast.
Today shipbuilding in Ukraine is at the level when it is possible to fill an order portfolio only at the expense of the state. And his opportunities are already depleted.
The fact is that building ships, even small ones, is quite a costly thing. Objectively, a country burdened by huge external debts and corroded by corruption has no financial resources to develop its own navy.
It is not by chance that during all the years of independence, the "Ukraine" missile cruiser, built during the time of the Ukrainian SSR at the shipyard of the Mykolayiv plant named after 61 communards, was never completed.
Ukraine got the cruiser in a state of 75% readiness, it was possible to bring it up to 95% in 20 years - and that is all.
So there are no prospects for long-term and large-scale programs, but everything that could be picked up - Leninska Kuznya has already picked up.
These are orders for the repair of patrol boats of the Ukrainian Navy and State Border Service. But they will not be repaired all the time – otherwise, questions appear regarding the quality of work.
Furthermore, you will not earn much on repairs. For example, on October 1, Kuznya on Rybalsky received a contract from the Ministry of Defence to repair engines for ships of the Ukrainian Navy worth $815.5 thousand as a prepayment.
At the same time, ship engines are a specialization of the Zorya-Mashproekt Mykolayiv association. It will probably be brought in as a subcontractor and will have to pay part of the money.
Kuznya itself will essentially act as an intermediary – and will be forced to be content with the commission margin.
There is no money in the state budget for the construction of ships even of such a class: the entire investment resource of Ukrainian economy is distributed among the authorities.
Companies associated with their entourage receive the fictitious VAT refund, perform work for state institutions at inflated prices, sell works and materials to state-owned companies many times more expensive than it actually costs – what kind of boats and especially cruisers.
Such are the motives explaining P.Poroshenko's decision to get rid of Kuznya on Rybalsky. But at the same time, the president, as a sound steward, made sure not to miss the most valuable thing.
As it became known to the media, in August of the current year, that is, before the sale of Kuznya, more than 60 thousand m2 of factory real estate was transferred to the Stroy-Renovatsiya company, owned by P.Poroshenko and his business partner Ihor Kononenko.
Workshops, warehouses and shipyard are among the transferred real estate. Judging by the grounds indicated in the extract from register, the property was transferred by Kuznya to Stroy-Renovatsiya free of charge.
Among the main reasons that could have caused the former owners of Kuznya to transfer the factory real estate to a new company before selling, lawyers point out a desire to protect the property from possible infringements, or to avoid paying obligations that had accumulated in Kuznya on Rybalsky over previous years.
Such a transfer of property is used to prevent the imposition of possible encumbrances, or execution upon property, for example, for debts to partners, or unfulfilled tax liabilities.
Based on this, it turns out that in this case, S.Tihipko just was supine before P.Poroshenko. And at the same time, perhaps, he also incurred certain expenses – which, of course, no one would compensate him.
Nevertheless, this deal gives the ex-regional opportunity to position himself as a partner of the president. And this, of course, is worth its weight in gold. First of all, in terms of security guarantees for the TAS group's own business.
Akhmetov will pay
OstroV has earlier written about the final collapse of business empire of former Donetsk oligarch Viktor Nusenkis.
Let us recall that as a result of the current situation, the Metinvest group of Rinat Akhmetov and Vadym Novynskyi received control over the largest producer of coking coal in Ukraine, the Pokrovske mine management.
The debts of the Donetskstal group of V.Nusenkis were bought by the ICU investment group serving the business of President P.Poroshenko. In August, OstroV suggested that R.Akhmetov was given Pokrovske in exchange for the obligation to pay off Donetskstal's debts.
Confirmation of this version was received in early October, when it became aware of the September decisions of Economic Court of the Donetsk oblast.
It approved the settlement agreements between the Glory investment fund, which is within ICU, and PAO Pokrovske mine management, which acted as a guarantor for loans for Donetskstal, issued in 2011-2012 by Russian banks.
It is referred to the debt in various currencies, totally equivalent to $71 million. Their Pokrovske and Donetskstal were pledged to repay within 1 month.
Let us recall that the total amount of debt of Donetskstal, which the ICU bought up, is about $266.4 million.
Obviously, similar decisions will be taken on them by the end of the year. They formalize on paper the alleged side deals between the president and R.Akhmetov who, it seems, is on the verge of new acquisitions in the European metallurgy.
The largest player there, the ArcelorMittal concern, put up for sale 5 of its enterprises in order to comply with the EU antitrust legislation and obtain permission from the European Commission to purchase the Italian Ilva metallurgical plant.
Back in June, citing sources, European business media reported that the Metinvest group had applied for the purchase of ArcelorMittal Galati — the largest metal manufacturing company in Romania with an annual capacity of 3 million tons of steel.
And in late September, it became known from Italian media reports that Metinvest lays claims to the ArcelorMittal Piombino metallurgical plant in the north of the country.
This enterprise is capable of producing 2.5 million tons of rolled steel per year. European media earlier claimed that Metinvest had applied for the purchase of three ArcelorMittal enterprises in the EU.
It should be noted that R.Akhmetov always approached the purchase of foreign assets carefully. And he has never been in such a situation like, for example, the American US Steel.
In 2003, it bought the Železara Smederevo metallurgical plant in Serbia for $33 million, and in 2012, returned it to the country's authorities for… $1. The story with the purchase of the Dneprometiz association by the Russian Severstal group was mentioned above.
There are quite a lot of similar examples. If we take the situation in European metallurgy, it turns out that the new owners failed with the full-cycle enterprises, including steelmaking.
It is unprofitable in the EU due to the high cost of energy and strict environmental regulations. Meanwhile, the crisis of recent years has hardly affected metal rolling plants operating on the imported steel feed.
This also applies to the European enterprises of Metinvest: Bulgarian Promet Steel, British Spartan, Italian Trametal and Ferriera Valsider.
Thanks to their presence, the top managers of R.Akhmetov are well aware of the state of affairs in the local markets and understand what they can count on.
In general, the situation is now favorable for the expansion of strong companies: due to those introduced in 2017-2018 protective duties on imports of steel products to the EU, mainly from China, the European Commission managed to provide "hothouse" conditions for local producers.
The EU economy is the second largest in the world after the U.S., so the prospects for the sale of rolled metal products look excellent.
Moreover, in August of this year, European Commissioner for Finance and Economics Pierre Moscovici announced the completion of financial crisis in the eurozone, which lasted from 2008.
It is also important to take into account that the EU is blocking import of finished rolled metal products with protective duties. But the delivery of raw materials – slabs and steel feed in this case, is not subject to restrictions.
Therefore, the likely new acquisition of R.Akhmetov in the EU will increase the load on steel-smelting capacities at the Mariupol Metinvest's works: named after Ilyich and Azovstal.
Recipe for Ukrainian-style business success by Kosiuk
Similar considerations are also guided by main shareholder of the Myronivsky Hliboprodukt holding (MHP, Nasha Ryaba trademark), agrarian billionaire Yuriy Kosiuk.
MHP supplies chilled chicken half carcass to the European market, which are now being processed at 2 holding companies in the Netherlands and Slovakia.
Since, as in the case of metal products, finished animal products in the EU are subject to protective duties and non-tariff restrictions in the form of certification requirements.
But it became known at the end of September that MHP buys the Slovenian vertically-integrated company Perutnina Ptuj.
The amount of the transaction is not being specified, but Perutnina Ptuj manages poultry farms in 4 countries of the Balkan region and owns a land bank of 4 thousand hectares. The company has 3.5 thousand employees.
Therefore, it is obvious that the deal is not a cheap acquisition for Yuriy Kosiuk, the dollar billionaire, who is also one of the largest recipients of transfers from the budget.
That is, the success of his business is largely ensured from the pockets of low-income Ukrainian taxpayers who are filling the state budget – including pensioners.
Except that they do not see the dividends from these successes. Therefore, they are forced to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence on a pension that does not even provide the real subsistence minimum.
Vitaliy Krymov, OstroV