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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Ukraine’s allies sign accord to help war-ravaged country rebuild

Smoke is seen above buildings close to the airport on March 18, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine.

By Nick Cumming-Bruce

More than 40 countries, including the United States, Japan and Europe’s biggest economies, signed an agreement Tuesday aimed at raising hundreds of billions of dollars needed to rebuild war-battered Ukraine.

The accord, called the Lugano Declaration, after the lakeside Swiss town where it was hammered out, sets out principles for providing aid to Ukraine and for the country’s eventual reconstruction, as well as sweeping political changes that Ukraine will need to make to curb pervasive graft.

The Lugano Declaration is only “the first step of a long journey,” President Ignazio Cassis of Switzerland told a news conference.

With cities flattened and schools, hospitals, bridges and railways destroyed by Russian bombs, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine told participants that the cost for reconstruction already stood at more than $750 billion. But with Russian forces still pummeling eastern Ukraine, he added that the estimate was only provisional.

Shmyhal argued that the assets of Russian oligarchs seized by Western governments since Russia’s invasion should be used for Ukraine’s recovery. Those assets are thought to be worth between $300 billion and $500 billion.

“The aggressor has to pay for the destruction,” he said. The prospect of Ukraine getting access to those assets or proceeds from their sale remained unclear.

Participants in the conference, including countries and multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, agreed to support a recovery plan for Ukraine but said it needed to be matched by political and economic changes, along with better transparency.

Transparency International, an anticorruption watchdog, ranked Ukraine, a former Soviet State, 117th out of 180 countries on its corruption index in 2020.

“It is clear that reforms must continue,” Cassis said. “The rule of law must be strengthened and corruption eliminated.”

During two days of talks, governments and international financial institutions also identified a range of actions to facilitate the flow of money to support Ukraine’s immediate and longer-term needs. The European Union said it would create a “reconstruction platform” to help coordinate international funding for Ukraine. The World Bank and European multilateral financial institutions would also help.

Cassis said the commitments of support in Lugano “should give the people in Ukraine hope and the certainty that they are not alone.”

Reinforcing that point, Britain agreed to convene a follow-up conference in 2023 and Germany signaled its readiness to host a conference in 2024.

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