US seeks to focus on Ukraine’s ‘urgent’ needs at meeting in Switzerland

LUGANO, Switzerland –

A top US diplomat on Tuesday urged Ukraine’s allies to help the war-torn country meet its “immediate and urgent” needs, not just long-term reconstruction, as dozens of countries wrapped up a two-day conference aimed at help Ukraine. recover from the Russian war, when one day ends.

Scott Miller, the US ambassador to Switzerland, added a dose of urgency to the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, where the Ukrainian prime minister a day earlier unveiled a $750 billion plan to help his country to recover now, when possible, as well as immediately after the war and in the long term.

Many attendees noted that the efforts were likely to take many years and that the reconstruction would have to take place in several phases. Some called for support for Ukraine along the lines of the US Marshall Plan for Europe after World War II, hinting at a grand long-term project.

“While we recognize the importance of preparing for Ukraine’s future, all of us must also honor our commitments to meet Ukraine’s immediate and urgent needs,” said Miller, one of many government envoys who denounced Russia’s war and detailed his support for Ukraine.

Some, however, warned that quick fixes were unlikely.

“I really understand that we want to be ready overnight, to start tomorrow,” Swiss President Ignazio Cassis told reporters. “But we clearly state: it is the first step of a long journey.”

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, flanked by Cassis, warned that his government would carefully select immediate projects to rebuild places like schools, hospitals and other infrastructure as the war progresses because Russian forces could simply “destroy it again”.

“It will be an unfinished process,” Shmyhal said, referring to a broader “rapid recovery” in a second phase. “So we need to wait for the end of the war actions and then start this quick recovery.”

He expressed the hope of locking up and using an estimated US$300 billion to US$500 billion in Russian-owned assets that have been frozen in many Western banks to help pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction. Such money could supplement cash from Ukraine’s own very limited budget, as well as support from allies abroad.

“It is very important that the civilized world give the signal to Russia, as an aggressor, and to other potential aggressors in the future, that they understand that this aggressor must pay for unprovoked aggression,” he said. “Russia should pay for this” recovery, she added.

A final document called the “Lugano Declaration” set out goals to help Ukraine build back better, including government transparency, respect for the environment, and fighting the corruption that has plagued the country since it broke up. of Russia after the end of the Soviet Union three decades ago.

Many said the European Union’s plan to bring Ukraine into membership could one day help shore up that reform process.

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