I personally can talk for hours about several years of us fighting with the influence of russian interests in Ukraine’s railway sector, which our oligarchs and now turncoat patriots used actively and got richer.
Starting from price dumping done by russian federation, which aimed to completely destroy Ukrainian railway wagon manufacturing, to actually russia monopolizing manufacturing due to patenting of some key components. In other words, today the entire industry is experiencing a crisis due to the fact that in 2023 there are still many russian regulations, requirements and norms in force in the field of wagon construction and railway transportation. Ukrzaliznytsia is actively implementing de-russification reforms, renaming regional railways of Ukraine.
However, many technical russian regulations, and Aurum Group has repeatedly pointed this out to the authorities, continue to operate, causing damage to the economy of Ukraine and making the strategic industry dependent on the russian federation. Considering the reluctance in the corridors of power and bureaucratic delays of the process, not a single Ukrainian company has managed to receive a permit for its own production of components, during the year of the war. Obviously, getting your own product is important not only for the full-fledged operation of the industry; a new production always means new jobs, millions of hryvnias in taxes, and, as a result, improvement of the country’s economy.
Despite the fierce opposition within our country from various interested parties, back in 2019 we did manage to convince government officials of the devastating consequences of imports from Russia – and introduce an embargo, i.e. a complete ban on the import of railway wagons, which are successfully produced in Ukraine with 97% localization. It is with pride that I always remember the quote by the Ukrainian news agency “Interfax” regarding the introduction of this ban – “The main initiators of the introduction of the embargo were PJSC “KRBW” and Aurum Group.”
Unfortunately, against the background of a fair and useful battle against the parasitic, subversive influence of our northern neighbor, one can see the booming activity of those who are used to making money on “schemes”, but not some small-scale businessmen who are interested in the margin from a Mercedes or a hundred of generators, but those industrialists with deep pockets who think in city-forming enterprises.
The pain and injustice of military aggression against independent Ukraine awakens terrible anger and hatred. I think that every Ukrainian would hold a couple of people from across the border by their necks, if they had such an opportunity. The deaths of our heroes or the suffering of women and children cannot and will not go unpunished. Unfortunately, today a skilled businessman can destroy a competitor or take away someone’s business for virtually any absurd reason, just by manipulating the current state of emotions and having certain support of the judicial and law enforcement systems, where, as we know, the rule of law is mostly absent, which is illustrated vividly by the recent events with the head of the Supreme Court.
That is exactly what happened to several enterprises in our group back in 2014-2015, right after the events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine that led to their occupation.
During that period, attacking my group, raiders and intruders of all kinds implemented all raiding and business extortion schemes known at that time. Simultaneously we were repelling 4 raiding actions. Those were a fictitious bankruptcy with the participation of affiliated persons, use of black notaries to falsify statutory documents with a change of owners, falsification of primary documents to appropriate the company’s working capital, not to mention the petty trickery of competitors. I will not go into details, we survived it, and having endured we became stronger.
Surely, you will think I must be overlooking something negative about myself, about the companies I lead, something that the invaders could base their actions on? Well, certainly, the arsenal of arguments was wide – I am the daughter of the former Minister of Defense, and according to the highly qualified professionals in journalistic sphere that’s just enough to be a priori the Kremlin’s agent and be convicted of all the mortal sins. There is only one problem – when we were legally protecting the interests of companies, were recovering (and did recover!) businesses – none of the opponents was able to provide any confirmation that there is any force in the world that exerts influence on me, or that even a single financial transaction or commercial agreement that directly concerns me, Alona Lebedieva, or any of the companies included in the Aurum Group – has negative consequences for the economy of Ukraine, or even more so – for its national interests, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
But then came the year 2022, the year of the greatest suffering and pain that Ukraine has ever experienced. And again came into action the forces that had not been heard of in the recent years.
I have always declared and proudly state now that our group has always conducted completely transparent and open activities, Aurum Group is a member of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, the European Business Association.
We create thousands of jobs, develop and protect the national manufacturing industry together with key players in the relevant industries, and pay taxes in full. Even when, due to the war, some of the group’s enterprises have actually stopped working, and currently the profits do not cover the expenses, we continue to pay salaries to employees and pay taxes in full. I am sure that a patriotically oriented business has no right to do in any other way, when the country needs help the most.
But I didn’t change my last name, nor did I stop being my father’s daughter. Then, clawing on to the event of 2018, comes a journalist’s “wonder” clip about literally few units of ordinary liquid pumps that, out of tens of thousands produced by our factory, which are used in water supply utilities or dairy farms, got through a chain of suppliers and against our will to the factories of the Russian military industry. Then, back in 2018, the issue was clarified for both journalists and law enforcement officers. It is clear that no manufacturer can control 100% of the ways its products are sold. A striking example is the Shahed drones, which are by 80% made of European and American components that nevertheless made it to Iran, which has been sanctioned for 40 years. And as for the companies whose components were found in drones, the international community did not express concern, while a few pumps for pumping out water or, pardon, feces brought such a stir!
However, following the tracing paper from the events of 2014, the perpetrators used the political situation and connections in the law enforcement agencies and first opened a criminal case at the initiative of the SBU. Next, feeling the complete futility of the case in the courts, seeing it literally burst at the seams, at the request of the SBU they facilitated adding my name to the sanctions list. And on top of it, pseudo-journalists enter the “arena”, pouring dirt on me, as if there is no basic professional ethics, disregarding all journalistic standards and in pursuit of their own enrichment and hype. Cheeky, without even trying to hide the frankly yellow nature of the materials! But never mind that, the “masses” will swallow everything anyway, the main thing is to headline it sensationally.
In all these events, one must understand the most important thing: stopping or limiting the activity of any industrial enterprise is a complete loss not only of valuable specific equipment, production volumes, a significant drop in GDP (due to losses for hundreds of connected manufacturing enterprises) and budget revenues, but also a loss of income for thousands of families who will be forced to join the millions of refugees and some of whom will remain abroad forever. In 2022 my group paid nearly 90 million hryvnias in taxes to the budget. With the current pace, this year the state budget will lack some revenue, as the work of the group is halted by hands of pseudo patriots, though no one seems to care, hype is the thing.
It goes without saying that there are considerable political, reputational, investment consequences. My story is far from being the only one, almost every day in business circles there are plenty of stories of security forces’ arbitrariness and complete contempt for the rule of law. As the President of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, Dmytro Oliynyk, said in an interview to Obozrevatel the day before, dozens of raiding attacks are currently being coordinated (!) by people with authority’s powers in Ukraine, and all for the sake of personal enrichment. He also emphasizes that raiding has long become a problem of national security, therefore concealing the facts – when, due to the actions of raiders, entire enterprises are stopped, people lose their jobs, and the state’s defense capability is reduced, – is no longer acceptable.
“Criminals who took advantage of the war because all the attention of society, business and the state leadership is focused on Victory. They must be stopped immediately,” Mr. Oliynyk says.
He also highlights another, not less deplorable tendency, when businesses deliberately decide to relocate equipment and specialists to EU countries due to the lack of opportunity to work in a civilized manner in Ukraine. Even a civilized investor, who is needed so much for the post-war recovery of our country, will not “play” under such terms. Therefore, I am sure our children have no future if we destroy the country from the inside! And what it’s like to coexist with the uncivilized world – today we are experiencing exactly that, in full.
Alona Lebedieva, the owner of Aurum Group