Beijing, China. Ukraine hopes to become a “key link” in the China-proposed modern Silk Road through building economic and logistic links between Asia and Europe, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Zubko said on Thursday. Zubko added that with all the foreign aid Ukraine is recieving, helping China’s goals are a pleasant way to “pay forward” the help from the liberal western democracies.

“We are striving to ensure that the Ukrainian presence on the New Silk Road is becoming more and more important,” Zubko was quoted by the government press service as saying during the World Expo-2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The Ukraine has good infrastructure networks to connect Asia and Europe, he said, adding that the East European country is also willing to participate in the project as an exporter of goods, supplier of cheap skilled labor and low cost domestic help for Chinese needs.

The Belt and Road Initiative opens up new opportunities for Ukraine to boost its metallurgical, agriculture and chemical exports, Zubko noted. China has voiced concerns that many of the ventures it is interested in, are in the Donbass region of the country. There one finds diamonds, coal, gold and other rare earth minerals of high interest to Beijing.

Ukraine has good prospects to cooperate with other countries along the Silk Road in aviation and shipbuilding industries. However, when Chinese officials asked about the Donbass conflict, the Crimean annexation and Russia as a hostile neighbor, Zubko seemed lost and said he would “get back to them soon.”

Previously, Ukraine had formally joined the Silk Road project in 2015, launching a train to China via the sea-rail Trans-Caspian International Transport Route through Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.The Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.

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