Total foreign direct investment by Lithuanian companies almost doubled in 2005 over 2004 to reach 2.061 billion litas (598 million euros) with Ukraine taking the second largest share, the Statistics Department reported on April 14. Most direct investment went to Latvia (41.9), while Ukraine followed with some 12.9 percent and then Russia with 12.7, mostly in the Kaliningrad region. Some 37.1 percent of the total investment was in wholesale and retail trade, 18.3 percent in financial intermediation, and 17.3 percent in the manufacturing industry.
On May 14, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that some 100 Belarusian citizens had left the country, asking for political asylum in Ukraine. During a press conference in Kiev on May 15, refugees asked Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to grant permission for Belarusian students to study in Ukraine. According to information available to Dmitry Dashkevich, a Belarusian opposition representative, refugees also intend to ask for asylum in Lithuania and Poland (see story Page 5). Meanwhile, Oleg Yatsenko, the head of the Ukrainian Students' Brotherhood, said some Ukrainian university rectors promised to help persecuted Belarusian citizens study at their schools free of charge. The European Union and United States dismissed the March presidential elections in Belarus as undemocratic and unlawful. The elections saw a landslide victory by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. Belarusian authorities arrested dozens of opposition representatives who protested against the results. Due to human rights violations and suppression of the opposition, the current Minsk regime has been called "the last dictatorship in Europe."
Hanner, Lithuania's leading real estate developer, reported 153.6 million litas (44.5 million euros) in revenues for 2005, almost unchanged from 2004. The developer expects a strong increase in return on investments and revenues from 2007, in particular in 2007-2008, following the completion of major projects in Ukraine, Latvia and Romania, said Arvydas Avulis, company chairman and owner. The company's investments in Lithuania and abroad soared by 6.7 times in 2005, to 287.6 million litas, from 43 million litas in 2004. This year, the largest investments are planned for Ukraine - a total of 154 million litas, up from 101 million litas in 2005. By 2009, investments in Ukraine should reach 501 million litas.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk has declared 2005 the record year in the development of trade and economic relations between Ukraine and the European Union. "In 2005, commodity turnover between Ukraine and the EU reached $24.1 milliion. This is the biggest index for all years of mutual relations between Ukraine and the EU," he said on May 15. Tarasyuk underlined that, in comparison with 2003, Ukrainian export to EU countries has increased by 60 percent, and import from EU countries to Ukraine by more than 60 percent. The share of foreign commerce with the EU currently makes up about 30 percent and with Russia 's more than 29 percent. "This means that the EU and Russia are the largest trade partners of Ukraine," said the Minister.