Vitalii Kim, Head of Mykolaiv RMA
The issue of drinking water is under the control of the Prime Minister
20.12.2023 18:52

A few years ago, Mykolaiv region was known as a resort and port region of Ukraine. But in the first months of the great war, it became an outpost of the South, where the Russian invaders cut their teeth. Many people also associate the region with the head of the Regional military administration (RMA), Vitalii Kim, whose phrase "Good evening, we are from Ukraine!", which he used to greet every day in Telegram, has become a catchphrase.

The head of the region shared with an Ukrinform correspondent how the region, which has suffered significant destruction, lives today and what new challenges it has to overcome at the end of the second year of the war.


- The past year: what was it like for the frontline Mykolaiv region, what did you remember?

- For our region, 2023 was better than the previous year, but worse than it could have been. After the liberation of Snihurivka and the right-bank Kherson region, we felt better because the number of attacks decreased significantly. This year was marked by helping the Defense Forces and civilians, restoring critical infrastructure, social facilities and housing. To a certain extent, it was just routine work.

- The President of Ukraine recognized Mykolaiv region as one of the best regions in terms of international cooperation in the field of recovery. How is this cooperation developing?

- Yes, we are the leaders in Ukraine in terms of international cooperation performance and work closely with a large number of partners. In particular, these are UN agencies (the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP) and many others. They provide us with huge amounts of various assistance - from construction materials, equipment, generators - to food, hygiene products, clothing and financial support worth hundreds of millions of dollars. We are sincerely grateful for all of this.

Our partners see that their aid has specific recipients, that no one is taking anything for themselves, and they are happy with that.

I would also like to note that the system of our cooperation has recently changed. While last year humanitarian and financial aid to the residents of the region prevailed, now the support is aimed at economic recovery, job creation, etc.

- The Danish Embassy opened an office in Mykolaiv. Is this an indication that our cooperation is for the long term?

- Yes, Denmark has become our official partner. We have signed a number of Memoranda of Cooperation with this country, and this has already yielded significant results. The first business office of the Danish company BrightBird, which is engaged in risk management and strengthening ties between the Kingdom of Denmark and Ukraine, has been opened in Mykolaiv. According to a report by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the total amount of funds allocated to Mykolaiv region for 2022-2024 is EUR 75.5 million. It should be noted that the assistance is not provided to Mykolaiv Regional State Administration, but directly to partner organizations or specific institutions, institutions or communities.

- Does the fact that Mykolaiv region is still close to the war zone and it is risky to invest here scare our partners?

- No, it doesn't. Yes, it is still not easy for businesses to launch their operations. But we have agreed that we will now carry out pre-project work, which usually takes a long time - up to a year and a half. Today, these processes are being worked out and the conditions for business development are being studied.

- The Korean company plans to build a steel module plant in Mykolaiv region. What other international partners have similar intentions?

- We work with our partners in various areas. These include agricultural business, light industry, asphalt production, metal structures, window systems, and much more. But now it is impossible and inappropriate to say when it will happen and in what form.

We have signed memorandums with a number of large corporations, such as Hyundai, Korea Expressway Corporation and others. They are ready to cooperate and are considering the possibility of opening their business with us. We assist them in every way possible. In November, an exhibition was held in the Republic of Korea, where it was announced that their government would allocate USD 2.2 billion to help Ukraine. This is in addition to loan programs and business assistance. So they are very interested in making Mykolaiv region a priority in this area.


- Despite the proximity to the frontline, reconstruction work continues in Mykolaiv region. What has been done over the past year?

- During the full-scale invasion, 15,000 different facilities were damaged in our region. About 30 percent of them have been restored. But these figures differ in different areas. For example, most of the critical infrastructure has been restored - 99 percent. Medical facilities - more than 60%, schools - 44%, kindergartens - 15%. The least amount of damage was done to private houses, about 7,500 of which were destroyed. Only 8 percent have been rebuilt.

In addition, we managed to put 19 out of 20 bridges in order in a short time, even though some thought it would take years. The only one left is still in operation. We repaired the trauma center in the emergency room, opened a modular diagnostic center in Berezan district. And the list goes on. If we had more money, we would do even more.

- It is known that at the beginning of the Great War, industrial production in the Mykolaiv region decreased fivefold. What has changed now?

- There are some successes. Such companies as PepsiCo and Agrofusion have returned and resumed operations. Small businesses have become more active, as we can see from the growth in electricity consumption. But big business has not yet started. About 260 companies were relocated to other regions during the war. They spent money on moving, so they are in no hurry to return, waiting for more favorable conditions. Another 160 companies have either been destroyed or are out of business for other reasons.

- What is the current situation with jobs: what could increase their number?

- This is an ambiguous question. On the one hand, if you look at the numbers, it looks like things are not good, because the ports are not working and businesses have relocated. On the other hand, many people are at the front, so there is a shortage of specialists in various fields. But the situation may get even worse after our victory, when the military return home and need to work somewhere. Therefore, we need to create something now so that when people return, there will be new jobs.


- Recently, the Danish Ambassador to Ukraine Ole Egberg Mikkelsen was quite optimistic about the prospects for Mykolaiv shipbuilding and assured us that their country would help us. How do you assess the chances of reviving this industry?

- Today, shipbuilding in Mykolaiv region is in an unsatisfactory state, just as it was before the war. There was an assignment from the President to restore this industry, and we are currently considering several projects that are designed to launch this process. But it's not the right time to talk about it now.

- The state has finally won all the courts and finally nationalized the Mykolaiv Alumina Plant (MAP) of Russian oligarch Deripaska. What is the situation there now and are there any prospects for its launch?

- At the moment, no. We need systematic work that involves building an additional production link. After all, MAP produces alumina, which is the raw material for another company located in Russia. But the government has a plan. Now the Cabinet of Ministers has to make a decision: either to transfer it to ARMA with a view to selling it or to the State Property Fund for management. It should be understood that without establishing maritime logistics, it is impossible to resume the work of this enterprise. I plan to discuss this issue with the head of the State Property Fund in the coming days.


- Have you seen any results of the work of the regional working group "Transparency and Accountability" and are you satisfied with its activities?

- It is important that this group is working. It is tasked with preventing corruption and overpricing of procurement prices at tenders announced through the PROZORRO system. As soon as we receive a signal, we work on it. If there are doubts or inquiries, we check it out.

Thanks to this systematic work, we have already canceled several tenders and reduced the price for some of them. Among other things, thanks to journalists who drew attention to this problem, we managed to reduce the cost of some materials and services for the reconstruction of the Mykolaiv water supply system.

Law enforcement also opened a number of criminal proceedings, but they will report on their work a little later. It takes time to investigate cases.

I have warned everyone involved in this process not to even try to do anything wrong, because it will be found out and they will be held accountable.

- The State Audit Service has released information that during the monitoring of tender purchases for the purchase of materials and services for the reconstruction of the water supply system in Mykolaiv, violations worth about UAH 650 million were recorded. How did the RMA respond to this?

- All comments have been processed, and we are grateful to the State Audit Service for paying attention to this. After all, everyone has to work within the legal framework, despite the fact that we really need water. So everything is fine.

- Speaking of drinking water. You warned that starting in mid-December, the quality of water in Mykolaiv is expected to deteriorate for about two months... Has this time already come?

- Not yet. Perhaps it will happen sometime in January, we will warn you. Now we are working to mitigate the situation, clearing the riverbeds and performing a number of other technical works. Because of the explosion of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, we have changed our plans to provide drinking water to Mykolaiv residents. I think that next year we will make significant progress in this matter. To this end, some work is being done even in other regions.  This issue is under the control of the Prime Minister.


- What is the current situation in the agricultural sector, including the demining of farmland?

- We had a plan to demine 85,000 hectares this year, and we have completed these works on an area of 120,000 hectares. But this is not the only problem for farmers. They are now short of machine operators and drivers who have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They do not have a normal price for their products to earn money, and there is no logistics due to the ports not working. Some have changed the structure of production and switched to growing industrial crops that are in demand on the domestic market. But this did not improve the situation globally. Farmers are now surviving.

- It is known that many farmers have cleared their fields of mines on their own, without waiting for sappers. But now some people complain that banks refuse to give them loans because they don't have an official certificate of demining. How widespread is this problem and is it possible to help?

- This problem is not global, although I do not exclude that in some cases such issues may arise. But they are being solved. Currently, loans under the 5-7-9 program are in great demand among farmers. For example, in 2021, loans worth UAH 1.9 billion were issued in Mykolaiv region, in 2022 - UAH 2.5 billion, and in the first 8 months of 2023 - more than UAH 2 billion.

- How do you feel about the initiative of Oschadbank, which offers farmers a 3% per annum loan for mine clearance?

- It is very positive. Three percent is almost free because the real annual inflation rate is higher.


- Is there any information about the amount of compensation from the state budget due to the loss of personal income tax for the military in Mykolaiv region? In particular, to cities such as Ochakiv and Mykolaiv, whose treasury will decrease by 92 percent and 46 percent, respectively?

- This is a special issue for Mykolaiv region, because even before the great war, we had a lot of military personnel who paid personal income tax to community budgets. During the war, their salaries increased, and, consequently, the budget revenues increased many times over. Now these revenues will go to the state budget, and communities will receive compensation at the level of 2021. Yes, it will not be enough for our region: for example, it will cover utility costs in full, but salaries only by 70 percent. That is, we will indeed have a certain shortage of funds, but this is not critical. I think the government will not leave us without help. But this will be decided somewhere in the middle of next year. Right now, everyone is focused on the production of weapons and ammunition. The main thing is our Victory.

- What is the current situation with the allocation of state subventions to Mykolaiv region for infrastructure reconstruction?

- Mykolaiv is not deprived of the state's attention in this area. We have received UAH 1.2 billion for the reconstruction of the water supply system alone, although this project is designed for three years. This year, we also received funds for the purchase of school buses, medical care, critical infrastructure, etc.

For example, at the expense of a subvention from the Ministry of Infrastructure, we received more than UAH 170 million for the construction of 11 healthcare, education, and ASC institutions. Another UAH 275 million was added from the state budget reserve fund for other projects. And the list goes on. Even my colleagues from other regions reproach me for saying that we get more.

- As far as you know, does Mykolaiv region also keep up with the rest of Ukraine in terms of helping the Defense Forces?

- We are one of the best. Mykolaiv region has allocated UAH 1.2 billion in extra-budgetary funds alone to support the Defense Forces. Businesses, private organizations, and everyone who cares help. About another UAH 1 billion were allocated by the communities of the region from their budgets to support our military.

I would also like to note that we did not spend money on non-essentials on a massive scale, because we simply did not have it. We are not Kyiv, Dnipro or Lviv. But there should be a reasonable balance in everything. Yes, you don't need to buy expensive cars, iPhones, and so on. But, at the same time, it is necessary to clean the streets, remove garbage, maintain the utilities, etc. Ordinary people usually do not delve into these details. But at the same time, they want everything to be clean, warm, and working.


- The Mykolaiv City Council, where you are a deputy, has asked the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada to make it easier for residents of apartment buildings to switch to individual heating. The reason was the unsatisfactory preparation of PJSC Mykolaivska CHP for the heating season. What will this change for Mykolaiv residents?

- This is an ambiguous question and we need to look at it more broadly. As for the global practice, Europe first switched to individual heating and then returned to centralized heating because it is cheaper if there is no corruption component.

On the one hand, those who have the money want to switch to individual heating. On the other hand, many do not have such money and are against it. If everyone is allowed to disconnect, the tariffs for those who remain on centralized heating will increase significantly, they will not be able to pay, and the company will be forced to stop providing services. These are all interconnected things. That is why I am personally in favor of individual heating, because I have it, but only if all the residents of the apartment building agree to switch to it. In my opinion, we should switch to individual heating gradually. First of all, by installing modular boilers of lower capacity. This will allow us to get high-quality heating at a lower price.

As for our CHP plant, its networks are very outdated and, in my opinion, it should be restructured. But the decision will be made by Naftogaz as the owner.

- What is the most painful issue for you today?

- Now everyone is tired of the war and is reflecting on various information injections. It is clear that people respond to the issues that are close to them. There is no road, there is no heating, somewhere else the water is not the same... But the Russians are taking advantage of this and trying to turn people against the government. It's hard for everyone now, it's understandable. Still, I would like to urge my compatriots to ignore the "mommy experts" who are now abundant on the Internet. Many of them manipulate public opinion to achieve their own interests. This hurts me a lot, so I ask you not to fall for it, because we all have the same goal - to defeat the Russians in this war.

- How do you personally cope with fatigue?

- You have to do what you love and rest as you want. If you periodically enjoy what you like, it becomes easier.

- Our meeting takes place on the eve of Christmas and the New Year. How will you celebrate?

- There will be no corporate parties or loud celebrations. It's not the right time for that. We will celebrate in the family circle with my wife and with a traditional duck on the table. And Mykolaiv residents who have children will be able to visit the Christmas tree in the Fairy Tale children's town, which was installed with extra-budgetary funds. There will also be a skating rink there. Everything else will come after our Victory!

Alla Miroshnychenko, Mykolaiv.

Photo by Volodymyr Cheppel

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