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Booking.Com Investigates Hotels for Links to Sanctioned Ukrainians

Published: March 21, 2014 (Issue # 1802)



  • The Dnipro hotel in Kiev declined to say if it received an inquiry concerning links to sanctioned individuals.
    Photo: Otzyv.ru

International online reservation service Booking.com is investigating Ukrainian and Crimean hotels for possible connections to Viktor Yanukovych and 17 other Ukrainians against whom the European Union is enforcing sanctions.

The Amsterdam-based international company, which has offices world-wide and lists 425,000 hotels, apartments and hostels on its worldwide database, said they took the step in the fear that the EU may sue them for violating European sanctions against Ukrainian politicians ousted from power last month by long-running street protests.

"As a Dutch company we fall under the trade restrictions of the EU and cannot do business with the 18 persons identified by the European Commission who were part of, or related to the former government in Ukraine, "said Anoeska Van Leeuwen, communications director at Booking.com.

The EU sanction list includes Yanukovych, his sons, the former Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko, former Attorney General Victor Pshonka and others.

Booking.com said it would sever any contact with hotels that did not respond to a written request to confirm that none of the 18 sanctioned individuals have any stake in the business.

Their removal from the Booking.com database would potentially hit hotels hard "Fifty of every 100 bookings are made through Booking.com," a spokesperson of Comfortable Rooms in Berdyansk in southeast Ukraine told Kommersant.

The Yanukovych family is said to have business interests not only in the investment and oil sectors, but also in tourism. Yanukovych's son Alexander owns a yacht club and a hotel in Balaklava, the site of an underground Soviet submarine base near Sevastopol in Crimea, reported Forbes.

The small circle of politicians and business people close to Victor Yanukovych — known as "the family" — are widely believed to have amassed extensive wealth since Yanukovych was elected president in elections in 2010.

"We do not know which hotels belong to whom, we work only with the management," said a representative of the association of Ukrainian Hotels in Kiev on Thursday. The Tourist Association of Ukraine declined to give comment or reveal what share of the tourism business belongs to Yanukovych and his inner circle.

The hotel Slavyansky Alliance in Yalta confirmed that they received a letter from Booking.com. "We have already replied that we have no connections to Yanukovych or other officials and politicians," a representative of the hotel, who requested anonymity, said Thursday. "We were very confused by this step by Booking.com, but will continue working with them," she said.

The Dnipro Hotel in Kiev declined to say if they received such a statement from the online reservation service.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of today’s seminar is “Grammar Practice.”


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at “Professional Growth,” a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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