LUGANO, SWITZERLAND (AFP) - Ukraine told an international conference Monday (July 4) that it will cost an estimated US$750 billion to rebuild the war-shattered country, a task President Volodymyr Zelensky said was the shared duty of the democratic world.
Speaking at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Switzerland, the Ukrainian president and a long line of government ministers described the massive destruction and towering needs since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24.
"Reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local task of a single nation," Zelensky said via video message. "It is a common task of the whole democratic world," he said, insisting that "reconstruction of Ukraine is the biggest contribution to the support of global peace".
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told the conference that the recovery "is already estimated at $750 billion".
"We believe that the key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs," he said, stressing that "the Russian authorities unleashed this bloody war. They caused this massive destruction, and they should be held accountable for it".
'Invest in Ukraine'
The two-day conference, held under tight security in the picturesque southern Swiss city of Lugano, had been planned well before the invasion, and had originally been slated to discuss reforms in Ukraine before being repurposed to focus on reconstruction.
Shmyhal laid out the government's phased reconstruction plan, focused first on the immediate needs of those affected by the war, followed by the financing of thousands of longer-term reconstruction projects aimed at making Ukraine European, green and digital.
A number of other ministers, as well as First Lady Olena Zelenska, also spoke in various sessions to describe the situation in the country, and lay out the massive reconstruction needs, as well as their vision for a new Ukraine.
Wearing a tight black t-shirt, deputy prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov, who is in charge of digital transformation, gave a presentation reminiscent of late Apple founder Steve Jobs detailing how the country could become a fully digital democracy.
Energy Minister German Galushchenko meanwhile envisioned a rapid green transformation, and said Ukraine was looking to increase its export capacities to help counter the impact of slashed European access to Russian energy.
Appealing to possible investors, he stressed that the government now has the possibility to "make very quick decisions on anything you need... Invest in Ukraine."As billions of dollars in aid flow into Ukraine, lingering concerns about widespread corruption in the country mean far-reaching reforms remain in focus and will be a condition for any recovery plan decided.
Zelensky's Swiss counterpart and co-host of the conference, Ignazio Cassis, stressed that reforms remained front and centre, with the aim of the meeting to lay "the groundwork for an effective and transparent political process".
He said this should go through "regulated governance principles," as well as clearly defined criteria for handling assistance, and sharing roles between Ukraine, the states, the international community, civil society and private partners.
The Ukrainians have proposed that allied countries "adopt" specific regions of Ukraine, and lead the recovery there to render it more efficient.
Britain has for instance proposed taking on the Kyiv region, while a diplomatic source said France would concentrate on the heavily-hit Chernihiv region.
Win the peace
In all, around 1,000 people are attending the conference, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who let out an enthusiastic "Slava Ukraini" (glory to Ukraine) after insisting on the importance of rebuilding a Ukraine better than before the war.
"Ukraine can emerge from this on a path towards a stronger and more modern country, with a modernised judiciary, with stronger institutions, with a solid track-record to fight against corruption, but also with a greener, more digital and more resilient economy," she said.
While the EU is intent on helping Ukraine win the war, she said, "we must also make sure that Ukraine wins the peace that will come for sure".
Lugano is not a pledging conference but will instead attempt to lay out the principles and priorities for a rebuilding process slated to start even as the war rages. It will conclude Tuesday with a Lugano Declaration, which Cassis said would spell out the "framework for a long-term reconstruction process".