In July 2017, you joined forces with Sayenko Kharenko as a business partner to strengthen, among others, its Government Relations capacities. What was the thinking behind this partnership?
Alexey Starodubov: Government Relations (GR) is a relatively new concept on the Ukrainian market. It can play a vital role for companies looking to invest in Ukraine or develop a business here. Unfortunately, at present many businesses operating in Ukraine encounter problems when engaging with both local and national government bodies. They often find themselves confronted by ambiguous personalities seeking to act as intermediaries between businesses and official bodies or regulatory bodies, for example. This is a particularly significant concern among international investors. Unfortunately, there is no civilized GR market at present in Ukraine to address this issue. This is why we decided to establish UA Direct. The goal is to work with international investors and businesses in order to develop mutually productive relationships with state authorities.
The art of lobbying is a central feature of mature democracies throughout the West. However, in the Ukrainian context, perceptions of lobbyists continue to suffer from associations with political corruption. What can Ukrainian GR service providers do to improve transparency and market confidence in these kinds of services?
A.S.: There are currently no regulations governing the lobbying industry in Ukraine. In order to remedy this shortcoming, we can look to developed countries such as the UK and Canada where there are clear legal guidelines in place for lobbying and GR work. Given Ukraine’s Western- oriented development trajectory, it might be useful to adopt practices that have been shown to work in places like the US and UK. We could use these models as examples and adapt them to our local needs.