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The war in Ukraine has dramatically affected businesses — big and small


In Ukraine, businesses face a lot of challenges in the midst of this war. Some have had to shut down entirely. Others are scrambling to find new ways to operate. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: When Russia first started to attack Kharkiv in late February, the initial onslaught was fierce. Buildings all over the city were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people fled. Almost everything shut down. Now, Ukrainian troops have pushed Moscow's forces back from the edge of the city. But the Russians continue to lob missiles and mortars. Industrial areas have been particularly hard hit, which has made reopening manufacturing plants difficult. For instance, Nestle used to run a large factory, making a very popular brand of instant noodles in Kharkiv.

VOLODYMYR SPIVAK: This is unbelievable situation. You can try to be ready to the war, but it's not possible to be ready to the war.

BEAUBIEN: Volodymyr Spivak is the head of communications with Nestle in Ukraine. While Nestle has restarted two other factories in the west of the country, he says for safety reasons, the Kharkiv noodle plant remains shut. And they're not the only ones. Numerous factories and offices in Kharkiv remain shut down. Some smaller businesses, however, are attempting to restart.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking non-English language).

BEAUBIEN: Slowly, the BRICKS Coffee & Desserts cafes have reopened across the country.

YAROSLAV RODCHENKO: (Speaking non-English language).

BEAUBIEN: Yaroslav Rodchenko (ph) is the owner of the chain. Like just about everybody else in Kharkiv, Rodchenko shut down when the Russians initially invaded, and he decamped to a city further west. Five of his 18 cafes that are based here in Kharkiv are now serving espresso again, but Rodchenko faces numerous challenges, including staff shortages.

RODCHENKO: (Through interpreter) Part of our staff leaving the areas under constant shelling or missile attacks. So because of these reasons or they have small children, they can't come back.

BEAUBIEN: Some of the baristas have left the country entirely. Also, the city has changed, Rodchenko says. Much of downtown Kharkiv was heavily bombed, and it doesn't make sense yet to reopen his cafes there.

RODCHENKO: (Through interpreter) Before war in the city center, there were a lot of offices, universities. The activity was higher there rather than residential areas. Now it has changed, and in residential areas there are more people.

BEAUBIEN: According to the World Bank, Ukraine's economy could shrink by 45% this year due to the war. Dmytro Symovonyk, managing director of Citadel Capital Ukraine in Lviv, says the contraction could be even worse for industrial businesses in the east that have had their facilities destroyed. In addition...

DMYTRO SYMOVONYK: The whole logistics system has been basically destroyed, and it takes time to rebuild one.

BEAUBIEN: And at any moment, Russian airstrikes could blow up a factory or business anywhere in the country. The fate of Ukraine's huge agricultural sector is also uncertain, he says, because of a lack of access to the major seaports of Mariupol and Odesa. But some parts of the economy, like Ukrainian IT companies, Symovonyk says, have managed to adapt and even expand during the war. Over-the-counter cappuccino sales are small beans compared to grain and IT, but Rodchenko at BRICKS Coffee shops views reopening his cafes as a patriotic act. Rodchenko started BRICKS Coffee after fleeing from Luhansk in 2014 when Russian-backed separatists took over the region. He says it would take a lot for him to close down again.

RODCHENKO: (Through interpreter) For example, Kharkiv would be taken and would not be under Ukrainian control. That would make me leave - but only this.

BEAUBIEN: Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Kharkiv, Ukraine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.