Ukraine needs hundreds of billions and has now presented the first concrete plans for reconstruction. She relies on expertise from partner countries, and she wants to ask Russia to pay.

The Ukrainian government wants to finance the reconstruction of its war-torn country largely with Russian money.

According to estimates, at least 750 billion dollars (almost 720 billion euros) are needed, said Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal at the first major reconstruction conference in Lugano in Switzerland. Reconstruction is a “common task of the civilized world,” said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy via video link. “This conference can be the first big step for the historic victory of the democratic world,” he said.

According to Schmyhal, the assets of the Russian state and oligarchs, which are frozen around the world, should be used around 300 to 500 billion dollars. His country has already lost $100 billion worth of infrastructure. Lawyers, on the other hand, emphasize how difficult it is to confiscate and spend frozen assets. Judgments before international courts may be necessary. Oligarchs would have to be shown direct responsibility for contributions to the war.

Hundreds of pages of reconstruction plan

Schmyhal presented around 1,000 representatives of donor countries as well as international organizations and financial institutions with a hundreds of pages of reconstruction plans. Ukraine is striving for an economic miracle, he said, and is counting on partners who can not only contribute money, but above all expertise for “smart cities”. Individual countries should get involved in individual regions and promote reconstruction there according to the most modern standards.

He appealed to partner countries to immediately tackle the most urgent repairs, such as water supplies and bridges, despite the fighting. According to the translator, Zelenskyy said: «As long as there are ruins, the war will go on. As long as the aggressor believes he can destroy the very foundations of life, there is no peace».

“We need investments, otherwise the economy would collapse completely and then we would lose the most important pillar for reconstruction,” said Markus Berndt, Managing Director of the EIB Global department at the European Investment Bank (EIB), the German Press Agency. The basic supply of water, waste water, energy and digital networking must be restored immediately, even if there is a risk that a water pipe could be destroyed again.

“If we don’t ensure that the cities can function again and that people can live there, the long-term costs will be significantly higher than if we finance a water supply twice,” said Berndt. People also needed a prospect of returning. Of its once 44 million population, more than 5.5 million have fled abroad and more than 6.2 million are internally displaced.

«Europe has a special responsibility»

The European Union will support Ukraine, confirmed EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Europe has a special responsibility and a strategic interest in accompanying Ukraine on this path,” she said. «Since the beginning of the war, the EU has mobilized 6.2 billion euros in financial support. And you know: there’s more to come.”

Donors would have to coordinate well, said Berndt. «Ukrainians will ask everyone for everything. If you don’t coordinate well, everyone is promoting the same bridge and nobody is rebuilding the hospital that may be needed more urgently,” said Berndt. With emergency aid, the foundations for sustainable reconstruction would have to be laid, said Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD). The goals are a modern administration, effective fight against corruption, sustainable infrastructure and energy security.

The head of the UN development program UNDP, Achim Steiner, appealed to the solidarity of the taxpayers who are helping to finance the reconstruction. Germany has also experienced solidarity in its history. The aid will not unduly burden the western economies. “And at the same time, in Europe’s own interest, it will help ensure that we don’t end up in an even more catastrophic situation,” said Steiner.