In Short 20:24 27 Jul 2020

“Ukraine’s biggest problem is trust and predictability.” Key points of Ilya Ponomarev’s interview

A former Duma deputy, now renowned businessman Ilya Ponomarev, talks about investor sentiment and politics

Ilya Ponomarev is the only Duma deputy who voted against the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014. Today he is the founder of the investment company Trident Acquisition and a citizen of Ukraine.

We relate the most interesting points from the interview Ilya Ponomarev gave to Olesia Batsman.

On his investment company and where people place money in Ukraine

Ilya Ponomarev's company is one of the kind. It is focused on Ukraine and quoted on NASDAQ (American stock exchange specializing in shares of high-tech companies, – Ed.)

We raised more than $200 million to invest in the country. We also won a large tender for the development of the Black Sea shelf, which won an additional backing of $800 million, i.e. the total investment reached $1 billion. However, the government of Ukraine decided differently: they canceled the results of the competition.

We are in the process of preparing an interesting agreement, but the next stage of development is in Ukraine. So far, it is impossible to do anything about it, we simply don't know who to negotiate with.

What foreign investors need to know

Corruption and the rule of law are banalities everyone is well aware of. That is not something big foreign investors really care about. They need specific issues resolved. They want the land allocated in a specific time for specific money with no complicated bureaucratic procedures. They want electricity networks connected, roads built. The most important things are trust and predictability.

We managed to attract money for Ukraine, but to spend it here was not possible. We will probably shift the focus of our attention to another country. The result will be visible not in Ukraine, but in the country that is ready to accept this money.

On the only Ukrainian investor in the company

I am frequently asked what the difference between Russia and Ukraine is. One of the unfavorable things I say about Ukraine is that it is extremely hard to negotiate with people here, as they rarely deliver on their promises. You seem to have reached an agreement, but then something changes. The only person I know in Ukraine, whose word is the law, or diamond, the one you made a deal with and you know that it will be done. This person is Hennadii Butkevych. A unique and very positive quality. Butkevych became the only Ukrainian investor of the foundation.

On Ukraine's closed nature and corruption

One of the former officeholders tried to bribe me so that we don't invest in Ukraine. He wanted to bring investment to our company on the condition that we invest in another country. In other words, we would better loan the money somewhere in the West, but don't come to Ukraine with your money ruining the fragile balance of power within it.

How to attract investment?

(addressing Volodymyr Zelenskyi) First of all, the question of attracting investment cannot be delegated, you should keep abreast of it yourself. Secondly, you need to understand how it works. Thirdly, more powerful people in the know should be invited to help. The ones that have the expertise and practical experience in handling large international investments. Ukraine mainly lacks such specialists, unfortunately.

On Russian aggression, Crimea and Donbas

I don't believe that Russia will openly declare the war on Ukraine. As I see it, Putin's goal now is to take over Belarus, restart the integration process. In the case of Ukraine, I think, it is more like "saber-rattling" or "coercion to peace." They assume that they can scare the Ukrainian elite and make them take steps towards the demands they make.

The more patriotic forces of "European Solidarity" criticize Zelenskyi, the faster his elector in eastern Ukraine starts following Medvedchuk. Thus, "ES" works for the Kremlin.

I see no short-term perspective to get Crimea back. To do that, Putin needs to be toppled from the power in Russia. This, in my opinion, is the only way to succeed. This condition might not suffice, but it is necessary. Regulating the issue of Donbas, however, is possible with Putin in the picture. I believe that Putin wants it, he needs international sanctions lifted.

Watch full interview:


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