By Kateryna Chechel
The Russian invasion of Ukraine upended the lives of millions of Ukrainians . Overnight, they were forced to give up everything they had—home, jobs, family—to be safe. More than 8 million refugees fled to neighboring countries like Poland, Hungary, Moldova, and Romania, which opened their borders to those seeking protection, critical services, and humanitarian assistance.
For Ukraine’s entrepreneurs, the conflict poses the biggest challenge since Ukraine secured its independence in 1991 . Even as business leaders struggle to run their operations and contribute to the country’s economy, many of them have rallied to help their fellow citizens and support sectors that are important in Ukraine.
We’ve profiled some of the Ukrainian companies and entrepreneurs whose efforts to support Ukraine are making a significant impact.
For Andrey Stavnitser, the co-owner of Ukrainian company and IFC client MV Cargo, and CEO of Ukraine’s largest port, TIS, "business as usual" was not an option after the Russian invasion. Russia’s bombing, combined with port blockades and mines, made it impossible for his company to transport Ukrainian grains, iron ore, containers, coal, and lots of other goods to world markets through the Black Sea.
As nearly 24 million tons of grain and oilseeds from last year’s harvest were stranded in Ukrainian ports and stores, Stavnitser, a logistics expert, leveraged his professional background to open one of the largest storage centers for food, hygiene, and medical supplies, providing aid to people in war-torn areas of Ukraine. He cofounded the HelpUkraine Center, a volunteer logistics hub supported by Ukrainian postal provider Nova Poshta, online retailer Rozetka, and supermarket chain Fozzy Group. The warehouse, which Stavnitser rented in early March on the outskirts of the eastern Polish city of Lublin, has now become a space housing millions of dollars worth of humanitarian aid.
In August, he announced the launch of another initiative - the Superhuman Center, a clinic specializing in prostheses, reconstruction, and PTSD recovery for those caught up in the conflict. It is expected to be fully operational in Lviv by early next year.
The team of volunteers working in the Center. Photo: Courtesy of Help Ukraine Center
Ukrgasbank, one of Ukraine’s largest state-owned banks and a long-term IFC client, is facilitating imports of critical goods and financing important sectors. Ukrgasbank has managed to significantly increase its portfolio of trade finance deals, which was worth nearly UAH 14 billion (EUR 368 million) as of August 1, 2022. Since the war started, it has completed over 30 trade finance transactions on key imports such as gas, diesel, and fuel, worth almost EUR 150 million.
To support agricultural efforts, Ukrgasbank is providing affordable financing to farmers from across Ukraine, especially in war-affected areas. The bank has already provided UAH 6.5 billion (EUR 171 million) in financing by issuing more than 750 loans to agricultural enterprises from Kirovohrad, Vinnytsia, Odesa, and other regions.
Ukrgasbank is also financing small and medium sized enterprises to help relocate assets from the eastern regions to the western part of Ukraine. For example, Ukrgasbank provided a loan with a state guarantee to help the relocation of a dental clinic from Kramatorsk (a city in the Donetsk region) to Chernivtsi, which is close to the Romanian border. With an interest-free loan, dentists Oleksiy Vlasov and Olena Shestakova could pay the rent and open their clinic in min-April, offering free treatment to evacuees and the military.
Photo: Ukrgasbank. The dental clinic in Chernivtsi, Ukraine
Despite the threat of air rocket attacks in the Kyiv region in late March, IFC client Nyva Pereyaslavschyny, Ukraine’s leading livestock products producer, began the sowing season so it could feed the company’s pigs and alleviate concerns about domestic food security. To further address these concerns, Nyva became one of the first food producers to establish a hot line to help meet demand for meat products. The company arranged for 24-hour distribution of food products through the mobile trade network to ensure that internally displaced people and locals have meat on their tables.
Amid significant supply chain disruptions, the company’s processing plant continued functioning and maintained its livestock despite close proximity to the front line. And although working in a fragile security situation, facing significant mine contamination of the farm land, and a shortage of workers, Nyva managed to sow grain on all 24,000 ha of land it cultivates to ensure that the volume of animal feed would meet demand. The company ultimately completed the spring planting campaign with record grain yields.
Nyva also reopened all of its 35 shops, including four shops located in the military operations area.
The cooling car that helped to distribute frozen meat among the Nyva’s shops during military actions in the Kyiv region. Photo: Courtesy of Nyva Pereyaslavshchyny
Other Ukrainian business, such as Galnaftogaz, are donating to relief efforts in Ukraine. Galnaftogaz, an IFC client operating under the brand OKKO, is one of the country’s leading fuel distributors. Since the beginning of the war, the company has continued operating its 400 filling stations, providing fuel to volunteers and to people who were forced to leave insecure regions.
In addition, the company has launched many programs to help those affected by the war. Apart from offering fuel to one of the country’s largest charity funds, “Come Back Alive,” Galnaftogaz supports civil and volunteer organizations that are evacuating people and delivering humanitarian goods to the conflict-affected areas.
In March, the company started providing food to Ukrainian soldiers free of charge at OKKO gas stations. Throughout the spring, it supplied 220,000 liters of fuel to local communities that are working to repair and reconstruct infrastructure in the Chernihiv and Kyiv regions (including the cities of Borodyanka, Bucha, Gostomel, Irpin, and Vorzel). In July, Galnaftogaz financed the purchase of five ambulances as part of the fundraising campaign backed by Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska. Currently, the company is supporting the reconstruction of four educational establishments in the Kyiv region that were damaged due to the military attack.
As the war continues, Ukrainian businesses are finding ways to help their people and country. Supporting Ukrainian private sector clients through financing and advisory is IFC’s core mission in this situation. “We remain close with our current and former clients to join efforts in supporting a private sector-driven rebuild of Ukraine’s economy and the reconstruction of its infrastructure,” said Lisa Kaestner, IFC’s Regional manager for Ukraine. “Right now, keeping regular contact and lending a hand is what matters the most.”
The reconstruction of a school in the Kyiv region. Photo: Courtesy of Concern Galnaftogaz (OKKO Group)
Published in September 2022