Mask scandal: How medical cargo from China ended up in Epicenter stores

Author : News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

Instead of hospitals and pharmacies, masks and protective suits were being sold in Epicenter K chain of stores
21:34, 1 May 2020

Mask scandal
112 Agency

On April 23, Ukrainian Mriya aircraft delivered a record amount of humanitarian aid with medical supplies to Ukraine. However, as it turned out, instead of hospitals and pharmacies, masks and protective suits first ended up on the shelves of the Epicenter K chain of stores, co-owned by one of the current MPs.

Volodymyr Zelensky personally met at the Hostomel airport the world's largest transport aircraft An-225 Mriya with a medical cargo of Chinese production on board. The President’s Office said on that day that the aircraft had delivered humanitarian cargo from Tianjin. We draw your attention to the word ‘humanitarian’ and move on.

What was on board

Volodymyr Zelensky at the Hostomel airport

Zelensky said: “Our Mriya brought to Ukraine 12 million masks - for both hospitals and pharmacy chains. In addition, it brought about 260,000 medical goggles for our doctors and more than 100,000 protective suits of the 5th level of protection.”

The president’s website reported that more than 100 tons of humanitarian aid had been delivered from Tianjin, China.

Medical cargo from China
Open source

The head of the Antonov State Enterprise, Oleksandr Donets specified that there were 103 tons of cargo on board.

Letters from MP

On April 29, it became known that the parliamentarian Oleksandr Hereha (parliamentary group For the Future) wrote to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, and his parliamentary colleagues with an offer to buy anti-epidemic medical supplies in his Epicenter K company.

Oleksandr Hereha
Open source

An important detail. According to Ukrainian law, parliamentarians must not engage in working or business activities, with the exception of teaching, scientific or medical activities. They also cannot be members of the board, other executive or managing bodies, or be members of the supervisory board of an enterprise or organization with the goal of making a profit.  

As of April 29, 2020, according to Opendatabot, Epicenter K LLC belongs to the family of Oleksandr and Halyna Hereha (51.3% and 47.97%, respectively) and Tatyana Surzhyk (0.73%).

Going back to Hereha’s letter, which, by the way, was printed on the parliamentarian form. It was published by Ukrainian Truth news agency.

Parliamentarian form of Oleksandr Hereha

As of April 29, 2020, according to Opendatabot, Epicenter K LLC belongs to the family of Oleksandr and Halyna Hereha (51.3% and 47.97%, respectively) and Tatyana Surzhyk (0.73%).

Going back to Hereha’s letter, which, by the way, was printed on the deputy form. It was published by Ukrainian Truth news agency.

“Dear Vitali Volodymyrovych! (Vitali Klitschko – Last week, Mriya plane delivered to Ukraine a large batch of medical masks, glasses, sterile overalls of the 5th degree of protection, as well as other anti-epidemic products. All of them have European and Ukrainian quality certificates. When a large batch is ordered, the price will be lower (the price list of the goods is attached). If you are interested, we ask you to contact persons in the Epicenter K company.

Journalists addressed the contact persons indicated in the letter. The representative of the company Olha noted that one can really buy masks and other goods at Epicenter K.

Answering whether the cargo delivered by Mriya was passed on a charity basis to hospitals and pharmacies, she noted that “it came on a commercial basis, we are purchasing.”

“Everyone can make a mistake”

Hereha’s assistant Olha Hryhorieva noted that the letter to city mayor was sent by mistake by another assistant, who allegedly mixed up the addresses.

“Well, there was only one such letter addressed to the Kyiv City State Administration. It was the only one. And it was a mistake. It should not have come out. But the assistant made a mistake. It is the only one like that. It was assistant’s is own initiative. I think that the MP will be looking into things. But this was one such letter, and it was the mistake of the assistant. We are all human beings, everyone can make a mistake,” Ukrainian Truth cited Hryhorieva.

At the same time, the interlocutors of the news agency in the parliament said that such letters from Hereha “come to everyone to MPs boxes.”

Is cargo humanitarian?

The Deputy Head of the Office of President Kyrylo Tymoshenko who also met Mriya in Hostomel commented on scandal, which was gaining momentum to

Vitali Klitschko
Vitaliy Klitschko press service

“The whole plane was paid for by the Epicenter, it was also Epicenter and the other businessmen who paid for the entire cargo. They did it themselves, without us. All humanitarian aid was also paid by the businessmen directly. We just met the plane, because it’s Mriya, and this is a cargo for Ukraine. Neither the budget nor our fund paid anything for cargo and aircraft,” Tymoshenko said.

It should be noted that website of the President’s Office as of April 23 did not mention a commercial party aboard Mriya.

On April 30, another plane came to Ukraine from China, which delivered 400,000 respirators and 50,000 protective shields for doctors.

According to Tymoshenko, in total, 25 planes with medical products came to the country from China: flights were organized by the President’s Office using charity funds.

“We allowed commercial organizations, primarily pharmacy chains and retailers, to bring goods. First of all, these are ordinary masks for the population. Commercial organizations pay for these planes, flights from China to Ukraine,” Deputy Head of the Office of the President explained.

He expressed opinion that this initiative helped to reduce the cost of masks in pharmacies, where a month ago they cost 20-25 UAH (about  1 dollar).

“We overcame the crisis, which was our task. So the Healthcare Ministry makes all further purchases, it has already begun to buy them. In the future, they will be delivered both by air and by sea, by trains from different countries. The task of the Office of the President was to overcome the crisis, so we say that it was the last flight,” Tymoshenko said.

Kyiv bought masks from Epicenter

At the briefing on April 30, the Kyiv Mayor Klitschko reported that Pharmacia Municipal Enterprise bought masks from Hereha’s company for sale in communal pharmacies.

Vitali Klitschko
Vitaliy Klitschko press service

“On April 1, Pharmacia Enterprise purchased 50,000 masks from the Epicenter before the masks ordered by the city arrived. Pharmacia purchased the masks from the Epicenter, and not for budgetary funds,” Kyiv Mayor said.  

He added that at the beginning of quarantine, when there was an shortage of protective equipment, Epicenter provided the city with 100,000 masks free of charge.

As for the proposal from Hereha, according to Klitschko, such letter from the MP was indeed registered in the office of the Kyiv City State Administration on April 28.

The mayor said that the city authorities would consider it in accordance with the current legislation, and noted that before that there were no letters like this from Hereha addressed to the Kyiv City State Administration.

Epicenter and quarantine

Despite quarantine, the company did not close its shopping centers. On the contrary, it was decided to organize the sale of protective masks, antiseptics, household disinfectants, “in order to continue to fulfill the social mission,” as indicated on the Epicenter website.

Epicenter stores

The company’s statement of March 17 said that the company will spend 1% of its turnover on the purchase of medical equipment and protective equipment.

“Working in the regular mode, we expect to direct 1.5 – 1.9 million dollars monthly to help the country purchase medical equipment, masks, disinfectants and protective equipment,” the statement said.

Thus, the hypermarket continued to work during quarantine “as a chain of hardware stores providing the population with essentials.”

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