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Ukraine’s Allies Pledge Billions for Reconstruction, but Kyiv Needs Much More

Allies of Ukraine pledged tens of billions of dollars in grants and loans to help rebuild the country following Russia’s invasion, at a conference in London this week.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian homes, schools, hospitals, factories and public buildings have been destroyed by invading Russian forces, through shelling, missile strikes and the deliberate targeting of its infrastructure. Fields have been mined; road and rail links cut off; and most recently, the Kakhovka dam was blown up, creating an environmental disaster.

The World Bank recently put the cost of reconstruction at $411 billion after a year of conflict, which equates to three times Ukraine’s annual economic output.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressed the Ukraine Recovery Conference Wednesday by video link from Kyiv.

“There is currently no place in a world where there is a need to construct and rebuild as many objects as in Ukraine. Every new day of Russian aggression brings new ruins,” Zelenskyy said.

The president promised to strengthen democracy in Ukraine.

“Russia invaded Ukraine not only to steal our land, or to steal our resources and people. It’s obvious that without Ukraine there can be no Russian empire. And it is equally obvious that Russian bosses are very, very afraid of our democracy. Why? Because democracy paves the way for the rule of law, getting rid of corruption, and to the key principle of the conference – every person matters,” Zelenskyy told the delegates in London.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends through video link as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak looks on during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, June 21, 2023.

The European Union pledged an additional $55 billion in loans and grants at the conference on top of the $30 billion given to Ukraine last year. Britain pledged $3 billion, while the United States is to give a further $1.3 billion in recovery aid.

The new funds are an addition to the approximately $63 billion in U.S. assistance provided to Ukraine since February of last year, according to a State Department fact sheet on the conference.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the priority was to restore Ukraine’s infrastructure.

“We’re going to invest over $520 million to help Ukraine overhaul its energy grid. More than half of which, as you’ve heard, has been destroyed by Russia. And in so doing, make it cleaner, make it more resilient, make it more integrated with Europe,” Blinken said.

“Recovery is about laying the foundation for Ukraine to thrive as a secure, independent country, fully integrated with Europe, connected to markets around the world. A democracy rooted in the rule of law,” he added.

The investment pledges are a good start – but more will be needed, says analyst Orysia Lutsevych of London’s Chatham House.

“I would say that it is a good result because there are some tangible pledges, especially the announcement from the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen of $50 billion over four years, where Ukraine will have a line item in the European Union budget.”

“But also, what we’ve heard from many foreign ministers, from France and Germany and Italy, that Ukraine will be a member of the European Union. And that is a very strong signal to the private sector,” Lutsevych told VOA.

Britain said it would support fast-tracked NATO membership for Ukraine.

The conference also laid out a blueprint for a new more democratic future. Ukraine’s recovery is about more than repairing the physical damage, says Lutsevych.

“Ukraine must come out of this war a stronger society, a better government, a more modern economy than before the war. This is the vision Ukrainian people have for the sacrifice that they pay – and keep paying. People want to make sure that there is justice and anti-corruption – and that citizens, communities, volunteers are included in shaping the recovery plans at the local level,” she told VOA.

The huge economic and human costs of Russia’s invasion continue to rise each day as the war grinds on. Ukraine continues to fight Moscow’s forces, even as it plans for a new future.

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