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Ukrainians Use Cushion Diplomacy To Fight Champions League Price Gouging

"Yours for only $23,000 a night!"

When Yegor Gordeyev saw prices for hotels in his hometown jump by as much as 1,000 percent for the Champions League soccer final in Kyiv later this month, he worried it would not sit well with the thousands of fans coming to cheer on their teams. So he used the one weapon he could to fight back -- his couch.

The Kyiv-based journalist offered it, and three other spots in his apartment, for free to the first four people to show their passports and tickets to the May 26 final pitting Liverpool against Real Madrid.

Within hours the idea blew up into a social-media trend that has attracted dozens of like-minded Ukrainians to open their doors to soccer fans and provide accommodation for free via a Facebook page called "Kyiv FREE couch for football fans 26/05/18."

"I was afraid that the fans would not come in the same numbers that they usually do for such events because fans, as a rule, can't afford such expensive housing. Because of this, the overall impression of my city may deteriorate," he told RFE/RL.

Price increases for top events such as the match between two of the world's most-recognized teams are not uncommon, given that as many as 70,000 fans are expected to attend the game in Kyiv.

But a quick check of accommodation websites showed that prices have been raised to unthinkable levels.

Prices have sky-rocketed in Kyiv (note: about 26 UAH/$).
Prices have sky-rocketed in Kyiv (note: about 26 UAH/$).

At the three-star Lukyanovsky Hotel, an economy double room without a window for game night costs $3,799 on the travel website For those looking to dole out a little more for a window, the price for a double room soars to $5,508.

Go exactly a week later and those same rooms fall to $46 and $49, respectively.

On the travel site, a double room in the three-star Hotel Nivki was listed at $1,898. Stay any Saturday night in June and the same room is just $27.

Or a group of fans can go the extra mile, or in this case 17 miles, to pay $5,500 for a four-bedroom apartment outside of Kyiv in the town of Kozyn. Of course, that doesn't leave much for taxi fare to and from the city on game night.

"I have no doubt that in the end, everything will be at the highest level," says the idea's founder. "Kyiv is a very original and cozy city."
"I have no doubt that in the end, everything will be at the highest level," says the idea's founder. "Kyiv is a very original and cozy city."

Serhiy Nadakhovskyy, an architect who has two free spots for Real Madrid fans on offer, likens the situation to a psychological experiment where children are offered one biscuit for nothing, or get five if they wait five minutes.

"This situation shows the inability to refuse the opportunity to tear a big chunk now for the sake of steady earnings in the future," Nadakhovskyy says. "You can't raise prices 10 times or more. You want foreigners to have a good impression about Ukraine so they come here again, not as fans, but as tourists."

The price gouging hasn't gone unnoticed among the country's lawmakers, who blame market conditions as much as greed for the problem.

According to Anna Romanova, a Samopomich (Self-Reliance) party lawmaker and the head of the Ukrainian parliament's Tourism Development, Resort, and Recreational-Activity Committee, as much as 90 percent of Ukraine's accommodation market is in the gray economy, unregulated and "out of control."

"Amazing people in Ukraine, unlike these hotels who charge 10 times room rates!" Kal Charles, an immigration consultant who says he is looking to buy tickets for the game, wrote on the group Facebook page.

In the meantime, Gordeyev has three of his four sleeping spaces accounted for by fans from Norway, the United States, and Spain. "The idea caught on with lightning speed. Literally one day," he says.

"And I have no doubt that in the end, everything will be at the highest level. Kyiv is a very original and cozy city. And it has the experience of holding large-scale events, including football matches. I know this experience will be successful."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service