By Elizabeth Piper and Marc Jones
LONDON (Reuters) -Ukraine called on Wednesday for Western countries to pledge over $6 billion more to help it rebuild over the next 12 months, saying Russia’s war meant Kyiv was facing the largest reconstruction project in Europe since World War Two.
At a conference in London where Britain, the United States, the European Union and others pledged billions of dollars in additional help, Ukraine said it needed yet more capital and also commitments to specific projects to not only recover but to develop into a powerful member of the Western world.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal put the price tag at more than $6 billion over the next 12 months, a shortfall he said he would try to cover during the conference which London hopes will cement its position as a leading supporter of Kyiv.
“We have set an ambitious goal of securing pledges for this amount as a result of this conference,” he said.
While expressing thanks for the support so far, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was blunt – Kyiv also needed concrete commitments to projects that will help Ukraine not only recover but to further modernise.
After nearly 16 months of Russia’s war on Ukraine that has destroyed homes, hospitals and other critical infrastructure, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak opened the conference with an appeal to businesses and governments to do more to help rebuild.
Addressing the key difficulty for most companies wanting to invest in Ukraine – insurance against war damage and destruction – Sunak announced the London Conference Framework for War Risk Insurance, which could pave the way for derisking investment.
“Together with our allies we will maintain our support for Ukraine’s defence and for the counteroffensive, and we’ll stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes as they continue to win this war,” Sunak told the conference, which brought together more than 1,000 public and private sector decision makers.
He said the London Conference Framework was “a huge step forward towards helping insurers to underwrite investments into Ukraine, removing one of the biggest barriers and giving investors the confidence they need to act”.
Marsh McLennan, a professional services group that says it has been working on the British government programme, said a war risk insurance scheme has to be available at an unprecedented scale – and come with a government backstop.
MORE AID OFFERS
Sunak unveiled measures including $3 billion of additional guarantees to unlock World Bank lending. This includes a pledge of 20 million pounds ($25.42 million) to boost access to the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantees Agency, which provides political risk insurance for projects.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would provide Ukraine with 50 billion euros for 2024-27, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered $1.3 billion in additional aid.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin was offering an additional 381 million euros in humanitarian assistance in 2023.
But Zelenskiy, speaking via video link, said Ukraine needed more targeted help in “real projects” that would spur growth in an economy he said had moved far away from the oligarchic model of Ukraine’s immediate post-Soviet era.
Ukraine is seeking up to $40 billion to fund the first part of a “Green Marshall Plan” to rebuild its economy, including developing a coal-free steel industry, a senior Ukrainian official said before the conference.
The total bill will be huge, with Ukraine, the World Bank, the European Commission and the United Nations estimating in March that the cost was at $411 billion for the first year of the war. It could easily reach more than $1 trillion.
Western officials hope the conference will encourage the private sector to harness its resources to help speed Ukraine’s reconstruction by investing in small and medium-scale projects. Sunak said more than 400 companies from 38 countries had signed up to the Ukraine Business Compact, a statement of support for Ukraine’s recovery.
European Investment Bank President Werner Hoyer said he got the feeling while listening to the conference speeches that “not everyone has realised that speed is of the essence”.
($1 = 0.7851 pounds)
(Additional reporting by William James; Writing by Elizabeth PiperEditing by Alexandra Hudson and Gareth Jones)
Brought to you by www.srnnews.com