Ukraine was offered help to rise from its wartime ashes on Monday as diplomats gathered in Switzerland to prepare a modern-day Marshall Plan following the war with Russia.
Fighting is still raging with no end in sight after four months of war, with Russia claiming a significant military victory on Monday after Ukrainian troops withdrew from Lysychansk.
“Planning for a future, strong and successful Ukraine must not wait,” said Melinda Simmons, the British ambassador to Ukraine, at the start of the two-day reconstruction summit in Lugano.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told delegates that 2,102 schools, kindergartens or universities and 799 pieces of medical infrastructure had been damaged since Russia invaded in February, along with many homes and apartment blocks.
"It’s not just a flat or a house – it’s part of the city or the rural community where people communicate, work, visit friends, lovers, raise children, visit parents," he said. "We must see the dreams which are no longer there, the love which has become impossible."
His message was that the reconstruction of Ukraine was "a common task of the entire democratic world" and would involve not just restoring what was destroyed but making new technological progress and increasing security.
Britain said it would put at least $950 million towards potential World Bank lending to Ukraine, offer separate funding to repair Ukrainian power supplies and encourage UK businesses to contribute expertise and investment.
It said Britain would focus especially on the reconstruction of Kyiv and the surrounding region, following what the Foreign Office said was a request to this effect from Mr Zelenskyy.
A successful recovery “will show [President Vladimir] Putin that his attempts to destroy Ukraine have only produced a stronger, more prosperous and more united nation,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told diplomats in Switzerland.
Germany said it had earmarked 426 million euros ($445m) specifically for reconstruction, after the G7 summit it hosted last week produced a promise from western powers to assist Ukraine for “as long as it takes”.
Development Minister Svenja Schulze said she had seen Ukrainians already starting to repair their homes, schools and utility supplies and that she would lobby for a cross-society effort to rebuild the country.
More than 30 countries were represented in Switzerland, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen among the most senior figures attending the summit.
Neutral Switzerland is not sending weapons to Ukraine but has officially condemned Russia's invasion and offered its services as a mediator in any peace talks.
Ms von der Leyen said investment must be coupled with reforms demanded by the EU, such as reforming the judiciary and curbing the power of Ukrainian oligarchs, to pave the way for Ukraine’s membership of the bloc.
"Ukraine will need courageous reforms. But reforms should go hand-in-hand with investment," she said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Ukraine needed an equivalent of the Marshall Plan, the American-financed reconstruction of western Europe from the ruins of the Second World War.
The same analogy was adopted by Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, who was in Switzerland presenting 15 reconstruction programmes for which Ukraine is seeking investment.
Mr Zelenskyy said hundreds of cities had been destroyed by Russia’s invasion, with many others hit by missiles and suffering damage to their critical industries.
Russia claimed control of Lysychansk after some of the heaviest fighting of the war, capturing the last major Ukrainian-held settlement in the Luhansk region.
Regional governor Serhiy Gardai said Russia would struggle to occupy the city because of the damage to infrastructure and housing, and said small pockets of Luhansk were still resisting.
But Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in a regular intelligence update that Russia’s focus was now likely to switch to Donetsk, the other of the two main regions in the eastern Donbas, where Ukrainian forces hold some more territory.
“The fight for the Donbas has been grinding and attritional and this is highly unlikely to change in the coming weeks,” the ministry said.