July 9, 2021

China deepens economic integration with Ukraine

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Move comes just days after Kyiv backed out
of signing U.N. statement critical of Beijing

KYIV – Ukraine and China earlier this week further deepened economic integration after signing a cooperation project to work together on road, bridge and railway projects as part of Beijing’s ambitious and large-scale Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s Commerce Ministry reported that the agreement was signed on June 30 and came just days after Ukraine’s delegation to the United Nations (U.N.) withdrew its initial intention to sign a joint statement at the international peace organization’s Human Rights Council in Geneva regarding Beijing’s alleged treatment of its Muslim minorities.

In an exclusive story, the Associated Press (AP) on June 25 reported that China had pressured Ukraine into not being the 45th country to sign the U.N. statement that called for more scrutiny of how Uyghur and other Muslim minorities are treated in the province of Xinjiang. Those allegations stem from previous U.N. reports and research by international non-profit groups of rampant human rights abuses that include placement in internment camps and slave labor.

China denies the allegations and says its policies aim for “re-education” to mitigate extremism in society.

The AP cited anonymous diplomats in Geneva who said China allegedly refused to ship 500,000 doses of its manufactured Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to Ukraine should Kyiv support the statement.

“Ukraine ordered 1.9 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine from China but has so far only received 1.2 million shots while being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported as well.

Separately, Permanent U.N. Canadian Ambassador Leslie Norton said in a statement that “credible reports indicate that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang,” many of whom are part of China’s Muslim minorities.

Oleksandr Merezhko, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on Foreign Policy and Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation, told RFE/RL that the report is “unofficial information” and questioned who the anonymous diplomatic sources were.

Five days later, Beijing announced the infrastructure deal and both sides have not disclosed a monetary amount for the massive-scale project.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times reported that both countries “will encourage domestic enterprises and financial institutions to actively cooperate on road, bridge and rail transit projects, and provide [the] necessary help and support for the implementation of cooperative projects, which are expected to have broad development prospects, according to the agreement.”

And Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry allegedly said in a statement on June 24 that Ukraine values its strategic partnership with China, according to media outlets run by the oppressive Communist country’s government.

The Ukrainian Weekly could not locate the statement on the Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s website.

China is currently Ukraine’s largest single trading partner, but the two countries are at loggerheads over control of an advanced aircraft engine manufacturer based in Zaporizhia Oblast.

Ukraine’s domestic counter-intelligence agency, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), seized Motor Sich’s assets and all its shares based on a court order on March 20. China has pursued ownership of the strategic defense company to develop its air force. The United States has opposed the purchase by a Chinese company that is allegedly closely tied to the Beijing government and which is currently sanctioned by the U.S. Commerce Department.

In January, the U.S. imposed restrictive measures on Chinese aviation firm Skyrizon, which claims ownership of a majority stake in Motor Sich. The Commerce Department said the firm’s “predatory investments and technology acquisitions in Ukraine represent an unacceptable risk of diversion to military end use” in China.

In December, Chinese investors filed a $3.5 billion international arbitration case against Ukraine, accusing it of wrongfully taking over the firm after the government initially froze its shares in the company in 2018.

China’s Belt and Road project for wider economic integration includes Ukraine. It runs through south and central Asia, and into Europe. Its maritime and overland route connects also with Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.

At least 68 countries and international organizations have signed infrastructure agreements with China as part of this initiative. A principal component of it includes a railway network that connects London to the Chinese city of Yiwu.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelens­kyy recently came under the microscope for his in-country, multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project to renovate and build new roads, bridges and highways.

The Nashi Hroshi (Our Money) public procurement watchdog in late June wrote that much of the bidding for the project’s tenders won’t go through the much-vaunted electronic ProZorro platform.

The group’s website said in an analysis of a bill that was passed in June that hardly any oversight will take place on this endeavor.

This includes the $3.5 billion “Ring Road” beltway in Kyiv that is being built. The “state[-run] road agency Ukravtodor” will “singlehandedly choose” to build the highly anticipated project, the watchdog said.

The Chinese construction in Ukraine is designed to be a toll road, with China’s Poly Changda Engineering Company a major participant in the project. The beltway will also link Ukraine’s capital to the Black Sea port city of Odesa and Chop in westernmost Zakarpattia Oblast.