Nicaragua canal promoter to build Ukraine ports

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BEIJING (AP) - The Chinese businessman best known for winning a contract to build a canal across Nicaragua announced he will spearhead a $3 billion joint venture to construct a deep-water port and refurbish the Sevastopol port on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Wang Jing made the announcement Thursday in Beijing around the time of a meeting in the Chinese capital between embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Yanukovych's visit aimed to gain Chinese support for Ukraine's battered economy. The country's economic malaise has helped fuel ongoing massive anti-government protests in the capital, Kiev, demanding the government's resignation.

Wang, who made his fortune in finance and mining, also runs telecommunications firm Xinwei, which has operations in several countries including Nicaragua and Ukraine.

He was little known even in China until shooting to fame in June after securing rights from the Nicaraguan government to build and operate a $50 billion shipping channel through the country to rival the Panama Canal. Skepticism and outright disbelief have poured in about Wang and the canal, which Wang has promised will break ground in 2014. On Thursday, he insisted that the canal project is progressing and said experience from that construction would help him with the Crimean port project.

The Ukrainian project is to be a joint venture with a company named Kievgidroinvest. Its initial $3 billion phase is to include an economic development zone with industrial parks. The second phase, estimated at $7 billion, would include an oil refinery, liquid natural gas plant, airport and shipyard.

Wang said the project will break ground by the end of 2014 and the first phase of construction would conclude within two years.

Yanukovych heralded the strategic partnership between the two countries during his meeting with Xi at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, where China's legislature meets.

Following the talks, the two presidents oversaw the signing of a number of agreements in air travel, alternative energy, coal and tourism. No details or values for the deals were provided.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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