Ukraine seeks investors to remain afloat in the eastern regions of the country, marked by the conflict separatist provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk area Donbás). 30 kilometres from the front lines of the war, in Mariúpol, the president, Volodímir Zelenski, intervened on Tuesday in the first international forum convened to revive the economy and improve the living conditions in and around the territories of the country controlled by the secessionist pro-Russian, with the support of Moscow. “Mariúpol will be the beginning of the new Donbás”, proclaimed Zelenski in an event that seeks to attract money for transport, housing and other infrastructure in the area of the east under the control of Kiev.

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Even advertised opportunities around the line of combat. The Administration of the region of Donetsk took advantage of the forum to present a set of investment projects located directly in the vicinity of the front. Among other things, the local authorities loyal to Ukraine offer solar for the cultivation of vegetables and tomatoes, warehouses and storage facilities for bottling mineral water. Care catalogs and brochures of the regional Administration of Donetsk do not make mention of the war, as if this did not exist.

at The forum in Mariúpol attended by more than 600 people, including representatives of some twenty countries and political institutions and international financial institutions. Among the participants, told an EU delegation, headed by the director-general Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Christian Danielsson, accompanied by several invited media, including this newspaper. The leaders of ukraine want to convey an upbeat message in an environment marked by the war and restless for the future. Mariúpol (of 460,000 inhabitants) was about to fall into the power of the secessionist in 2014. In the city now reside tens of thousands of people displaced from the conflict of the autodenominadas republics popular Donetsk and Lugansk. According to the deputy mayor, Sergei Orlov, there is a total of 96,000 displaced persons registered, of whom between 50,000 and 60,000 live permanently in the city.

to the north and the east, Mariúpol is practically encapsulated in hostile territory, and its port on the sea of Azov, resents the regime unilaterally, that Russia has imposed to the navigation through the Kerch strait after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. That year, Kiev closed the international airport Mariúpol for reasons of “safety” and has not been reopened. However, on the eve of the forum, in “a record time of 68 days” was repaired the rugged road of 130 kilometers that connects the city with the neighbouring region of Zaporizhzhia, said the prime minister, Ukrainian, Oleksiy Honcharuk.

This repair expedited, after years of neglect, has a symbolic character, since Zelenski and his team need instant successes that indicate a new positive dynamic able to motivate the investors and help change the deteriorating image of Ukraine. Honcharuk said that the Government will work to ensure that “investors forget that it is corruption.” “Don’t miss this opportunity to invest in Ukraine”, he stressed, for his part, Zelenski. President and prime minister agreed in their effort to dispel one of the main apprehensions of the investors; namely, the possibility that the nationalised bank Privatbank could return —style building with public money— at the hands of its former owner, the oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who Zelenski has maintained a close relationship. Honcharuk said that it understood very well that there will be no money if investors are not convinced that the case not be resolved “at the expense of taxpayers.”

In Mariúpol, Zelenski opened, in addition, a project office funded by the EU and several of its member States. The office, which is presented as a show of solidarity with the reforms in Ukraine, will focus on support to programs (already initiated) of territorial decentralization and anti-corruption.

The EU supports the reform of decentralization by means of the program U-Lead with Europe, which consists of a total of 102 million euros for the period between 2016 and 2020. On the whole, Brussels has mobilized something more than 15,000 million euros to help Ukraine; of them 6.461,5 million from the community budget for 2014-2019 and 8.600 million, of financial institutions. In addition, the EU has channelled 1.378,1 million of bilateral aid. The reconstruction of the area of Donbás (the provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk) under the control of Kiev requires 372 million euros as a minimum for transportation, infrastructure, housing, administrative buildings and industrial, according to the deputy chief of the office of the president of Ukraine, Sergey Trofímov.

Zelenski was willing to guarantee the investments. An IMF mission will come to Ukraine to treat “a new financing program expanded,” he added Honcharuk.

Cool contest

The president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, reiterated in Mariúpol it their priority to end the war in the East. Tuesday began the separation of forces in the town of Zolotoe, and this announcement, made by the Foreign minister, Vadim Pristaiko, generated new expectations of cool contention, following the more pessimistic views of the last few weeks.
The separation of forces prorrusas and the Army Ukrainian in Zolotoe, in addition to two other points on the front line —Stanitza Luganskaia and in Petrovskoe, still pending, is one of the conditions for Moscow for a first meeting between Zelenski and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in the so-called format of meetings of Normandy (along with the leaders of Germany and France).

The “reintegration” of the territories that had seceded from the rest of the country does not seem a feasible objective in the short term, among other things, by the rejection that both Kiev as the secessionist show the decisive points of the agreement signed in Minsk (Belarus) in 2015. However, the cessation of hostilities would allow Zelenski concentrate on his program of reforms, which included privatization and the creation of a market for land.

“For the moment, none of the reforms has reached a point of irreversible, but moving in the right direction,” said Peter Wagner, head of group of support to Ukraine in the Directorate of Neighborhood from the European Commission. “This is a journey of a long journey and a lot of work,” he said.

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