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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev Wooing Russians for Future Investment

KIEV -- A senior Ukrainian official on Tuesday urged Russians to invest in Ukrainian businesses, saying the amount of current investment was too low for nations with centuries of shared history.

"Every Russian investment in Ukraine and every Ukrainian investment in Russia will make our partnership as two brotherly peoples and two brotherly nations irreversible," said First Deputy Minister Anatoliy Kinakh.

The Ukrainian government is in a race to attract investment, which the country desperately needs if President Viktor Yushchenko is to meet his pledge of creating 5 million new jobs and raising living standards.

The two-day conference, focusing specifically on Russia, followed last week's World Economic Forum on Ukraine, during which investors from around the world told the government that predictability and speed were essential to attract foreign money.

Kinakh said Russia remains only the seventh-largest investor in Ukraine, behind the United States, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. Since Ukraine's independence, direct investment from Russia has totaled $511 million out of a total of $8.7 billion. "This doesn't adequately reflect the possibilities that exist for us," Kinakh said.

Relations between the two neighbors have cooled recently.

Russia actively supported Yushchenko's rival in last year's presidential race. Yushchenko won after Ukraine's Supreme Court threw out the Viktor Yanukovych's victory citing massive fraud, and ordered a repeat vote, which thousands of international monitors came to observe. An attempt by the Ukrainian Cabinet earlier this year to set price limits on gasoline also angered Russia's large oil companies, which remain Ukraine's major suppliers. Kinakh promised that would not happen again, saying the government would not try to artificially manage prices.

"The task of any state is to let businesses work in peace ... free from any administrative arbitrariness," said Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Ukrainian officials encouraged the Russians to focus on sectors such as aviation construction, energy and transport.

Yevheniy Chervonenko, minister of transport and communications, said the Russians were particularly encouraged to invest in Ukraine's railroad sector and in road construction.

"But our door is open for every project," he said. "We are waiting for you."

The Ukrainian officials, in a gesture of amicability, shrugged off the available translation service and addressed the participants directly in Russian rather than in Ukraine's state language.

Russian-owned businesses participating in the conference included TNK-BP, LUKoil-Ukraina and RusAl. Alexander Kosyanenko, general director of the Russian-owned chain of supermarkets, Perekryostok, said that he was encouraged by the Ukrainian market, and that his company was pursuing possibilities here.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has had a cool relationship with Russia, had been expected to address the forum. But her office and organizers said that it had been only a preliminary plan, and that her appearance had never been confirmed. They denied any slight was intended.