Zelenskyy appeals for air defences at Ukraine Recovery Summit in Berlin

Ukraine’s battered power grid has been a frequent target of Russian attacks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shake hands after a press conference at the event in Berlin on Tuesday. AP
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Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for more air defences to shield Ukraine’s battered energy grid at a conference on Tuesday to rally support for its recovery from destruction wreaked by Russia.

The two-day Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin is bringing together 2,000 people from politics, business and other areas, who are arguing that the task of supporting the country’s recovery is too big for governments alone.

Ukraine’s power grid has been a frequent target of Russian attacks, forcing energy companies to institute rolling power cuts nationwide.

"Russia's greatest strategic advantage over Ukraine is superiority in the sky," Mr Zelenskyy told the forum. "It is missile and bomb terror that helps Russian troops advance on the ground. Air defence is the answer."

Opening the conference, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had earlier on Tuesday also urged allies to provide more air defence for Ukraine.

"I would like to make a heartfelt plea to everyone here today: please support our initiative to strengthen Ukraine's air defence with everything that is possible," Mr Scholz said.

"The best reconstruction is the one that doesn't have to take place at all."

Germany has contributed three Patriot air defence systems to Kyiv, while Mr Zelenskyy said a total of seven Patriots were needed for Ukraine to protect its urban centres from Russian missiles.

Russian aerial attacks have already destroyed half of the country's electricity production capacity since winter, said Mr Zelenskyy.

Ukraine's state power operator said it was extending scheduled power cuts around the country because of increased consumption and "extensive damage" to the network.

Mr Zelenskyy said, in the coming month, Ukraine needs equipment for heating and electricity plants that are currently out of action. “This will allow us to respond to the situation here and now,” he said.

The Ukrainian leader said nine gigawatts of electricity-generating capacity have been destroyed – including 80 per cent of thermal power and one third of hydroelectric power – while the peak consumption in Ukraine last winter was 18 gigawatts. Energy, he said, continues to be “one of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s main targets”.

Looking beyond Ukraine's immediate problems, Mr Zelenskyy said foreign investment in energy would be mutually beneficial.

“Ukraine has all the natural foundations for modern energy but without your financing and investments we won’t be able to realise this,” he said.

“This is not about grants but about high-yield investments for your companies, about a large market for your equipment, about loan programmes for your institutions,” all of which could create tens of thousands of new jobs, he added.

The Berlin conference also focuses on support for reforms that Ukraine has embarked on in its bid to join the EU.

On Monday, the head of the State Agency for Restoration of Ukraine, Mustafa Nayyem, announced his resignation on Facebook. He cited “systemic obstacles that prevent me from exercising my powers effectively” and accused the government of bogging his agency down in red tape.

Ukraine has not had a minister dedicated to reconstruction since Oleksandr Kubrakov was dismissed in May. Mr Nayyem complained that Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal had barred him from attending the Berlin conference.

After almost a year of stalemate, Ukraine has been forced to abandon dozens of frontline settlements this spring, with Russian troops holding a significant advantage in manpower and resources.

Ukraine's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday its forces had downed a Russian Su-25 jet a day earlier in the eastern Donetsk region, where Moscow has concentrated its firepower in recent weeks.

Ukrainian prosecutors in the industrial region, which the Kremlin claimed to have annexed in late 2022, meanwhile said five people had been wounded in an overnight Russian strike in the frontline town of Kostyantynivka.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 2:49 PM