Editor’s Note: Ukraine’s businesses are struggling after the country introduced nationwide restrictions on movement and travel starting on March 12. The restrictions have been strengthened since then and are set to last until at least May 22. Most businesses are closed with employees working remotely or not working at all. The exceptions include supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, parcel delivery services. The borders are closed to most forms of traffic, except Ukrainians returning by foot or by car. Most domestic transportation is closed or heavily restricted. Estimates range on how deeply the ensuing recession will harm Ukraine. The Kyiv Post talked with entrepreneurs about their daily struggles, asking how the quarantine has affected their ventures and what they are planning to do once it’s lifted.
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senior partner at law firm Asters. Founded in 1995, Asters is the largest Ukrainian law firm with offices in Kyiv, Washington D.C., Brussels and London. The firm represents clients on a broad spectrum of matters arising in the course of doing business in Ukraine. It employs 230 people.
“We don’t observe a significant decrease in the workload of our lawyers at the moment. We haven’t introduced salary cuts or any other form of so-called ‘personnel optimization.’ Of course, the COVID-19 outbreak and quarantine are already heavily affecting some industries of our clients.
“On the other hand, the crisis and its consequences have resulted in some unexpected requests from clients where law firms can be of use. When the crisis has struck, we surveyed key experts within our firm from different fields of law and, as a result, we outlined a list of questions that companies and their boards should consider as they navigate this uncertain era. This list is publicly available at our website and consists of nine pages. There is indeed a lot of legal implications businesses should be aware of.
“We also created the COVID-19 Legal Support Hub on our website, providing insights on the key challenges affecting businesses in Ukraine and possible solutions. Another idea we had is a freely accessible online Legal School for the European Business Association members, the largest business association in Ukraine.
“Asters was among the first law firms in Ukraine to react to the COVID-19 outbreak. In early March, weeks before the official announcement of quarantine in Ukraine, we restricted international travel for all employees, limited participation in all external events, and limited client meetings in our offices transferring them online.
“Our employees have been working remotely from home since March 16. We have deployed and tested necessary remote work tools. Switching to work from home for 230 people in a short period of time was quite a challenge, but as a result, our entire team remains fully functional.
“Our first goal is to protect our clients and employees. We also contribute (money) to fighting COVID-19 in Ukraine. Asters and its employees already donated more than Hr 1 million ($37,000) to fight COVID-19. We allocated Hr 817,000 ($30,000) to purchase a medical ventilator for the Kyiv City Hospital Number 4, as well as Hr 100,000 ($3,700) to buy product packages for Red Cross-listed senior people and large families requiring help. Our employees have also raised Hr 100,000 ($3,700) to provide help and medical equipment to several hospitals, in the form of lab coats, respirators, and gloves.”