Allies promise to 'build a new Ukraine' in $750bn revival from ashes of war

Swiss recovery summit hears promises of social and economic reforms after war with Russia

Railway workers and local residents dismantle the ruins of a building hit by a Russian rocket near Kharkiv, Ukraine. AFP
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Ukraine’s allies promised on Tuesday to help build a better country from the ruins of the war with Russia after Kyiv set out a $750 billion vision for its reconstruction.

More than 40 countries united behind a promise to bring about a social and economic transformation in Ukraine by helping it go green, stamp out corruption and meet the conditions for joining the EU.

Some nations will be assigned particular areas of Ukraine as the focus of their efforts — with Britain taking Kyiv, France looking after Chernihiv and Denmark planning the reconstruction of Mykolaiv.

The talks are taking place before the fighting in Ukraine has ended as the country pleads for help to repair its battered homes, schools and hospitals after more than four months of war.

But diplomats at a two-day reconstruction summit in Switzerland said they had heard the message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that recovery efforts should not merely aim to restore the pre-war country.

“We want to build a new Ukraine,” said the country’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, “with new transparent rules, a digital country convenient for people and business, safe and economically vibrant”.

Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Glinski said assistance should not wait for any future political settlement with Russia because Ukraine had urgent humanitarian needs “here and now”.

“We need to bear in mind that the process of reconstruction should not be limited to a mere restoration of the pre-war status quo, as it presents a major opportunity to rebuild better”, he said.

Mr Shmyhal put a $750bn price tag on recovery but said this should come from confiscated Russian assets as much as possible — an idea being explored by western powers that have frozen the accounts of wealthy oligarchs.

A recovery council convened by Mr Zelenskyy has put forward 24 volumes of ideas to rebuild Ukraine, aimed at improving Ukraine’s economy while putting it on track for EU membership.

The EU’s 27 leaders last month granted candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova but their progress towards accession will depend on anti-corruption measures and other reforms, and could take many years.

A declaration by the countries represented in Switzerland said sustainable development and gender equality should also be at the heart of Ukraine’s recovery.

Some countries made specific promises of support. Denmark offered 13.5 million euros ($13.9m) in short-term assistance to prepare for winter as well as expertise on urban planning and the maritime sector.

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis, Ukraine's parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk and German Development Minister Svenja Schulze at the recovery summit in Switzerland. AFP

“I’m certain that Ukraine will win the war and that Ukraine will emerge stronger and better thanks to our joint efforts,” said Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.

The US said its support for Ukraine was already the largest of its kind since the Marshall Plan that rebuilt western Europe after the Second World War, a precedent often invoked by diplomats discussing Ukraine.

Mr Shmyhal called on allies to “make the Ukrainian economic miracle come true”, again invoking memories of post-war West Germany.

Switzerland, which has not offered military aid to Ukraine because of its long-standing neutrality, said it would double financial support and earmark some of it specifically for digital transformation in Ukraine.

Germany said it was offering 426m euros ($438m) in direct support, while Britain a day earlier announced $950m for World Bank lending to Ukraine and said it would host the same reconstruction summit next year.

Updated: July 05, 2022, 12:40 PM