Allies pledge billions for Ukraine’s recovery as Zelenskyy stresses urgency
By Mark Landler
Western countries pledged tens of billions of dollars to rebuild war-torn Ukraine on Wednesday, as leaders gathered at a two-day conference in London convened by the British government in the shadow of Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia.
But with the total cost of reconstruction projected to spiral into the hundreds of billions of dollars, the prospect of using confiscated Russian assets to pay for it emerged as a potent, if problematic, theme at the gathering.
Britain and the European Union are both exploring legal mechanisms to divert frozen Russian assets to Ukraine. Globally, these public and private assets are estimated to be worth at least $300 billion, a sizable chunk of the total reconstruction cost, which the World Bank currently estimates at more than $411 billion.
While few legal experts question the right of countries to freeze foreign assets, some warn that confiscating a large amount of Russian funds could set a troublesome legal precedent and undermine confidence in financial markets.
The pledges, rolled out by Britain, the United States and the European Union, sought to shift public attention, at least for the moment, from the battlefield to the yearslong reconstruction of Ukraine that will follow the war.
“It’s clear Russia must pay for the destruction it inflicted,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain said in opening the conference.
“As we’ve seen in Bakhmut and Mariupol, what Russia cannot take it will seek to destroy,” Sunak added. “They want to do the same to Ukraine’s economy.”
Speaking to the participants by video link, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine argued that there was economic opportunity in the ruins of his country. He thanked the donors but pleaded with them to start investing immediately.
“We must move from vision to agreements, and from agreements to real projects,” Zelenskyy said.
Britain announced assistance that includes 240 million pounds ($305 million) of direct economic assistance and $3 billion in World Bank loan guarantees. The loans are intended to encourage an influx of private investment to rebuild Ukrainian cities and towns destroyed by Russian forces.
The European Union laid out an ambitious package that would include 50 billion euros (about $55 billion) from 2024 to 2027. About 17 billion euros would come in grants, and the rest in the form of low-interest loans. The package must be approved by all 27 members of the bloc, however, and it may face hurdles.
“This plan could become an anchor for all international donors,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission. “This is what I mean when I say we are with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
The United States announced $1.3 billion in additional economic aid, roughly split between funds to overhaul Ukraine’s heavily damaged energy infrastructure and to modernize ports, railways and border crossings.
“As Russia continues to destroy, we are here to help Ukraine rebuild,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, noting that the package had bipartisan support in Congress. “Recovery is about laying the foundation for Ukraine to thrive.”