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Zelenskiy: Ukraine has made west more united than ever

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that Ukraine has made the west, including the EU, more united than ever before and can become an engine for green world growth and security for decades, in an address by video link to more than 1,000 businesses and foreign ministers at a two-day Ukraine Recovery conference in London.

The Ukrainian president argued that the fight for his country was a way to protect freedom and security across the world and, once at peace and free from Russian interference, Ukraine could be “the largest source of economic, industrial and technological growth in Europe for decades and decades”.

He told the conference it was now time to move from visions of Ukraine’s recovery to specific agreements.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, told the meeting Ukraine was running a budget deficit to 2027 of €60bn (£52bn) and blamed the destruction on “one man’s delusional attempt to restore a lost empire”.

She said she was sure Ukraine would become a member of the European Union, and delivered an upbeat progress report on Ukraine meeting its pre-accession commitments towards democracy, judicial reform, media freedom and anti-corruption. “Ukraine had accelerated its reform programme with impressive speed and resolve,” she said, adding that before the summer break the EU woud deliver a report on how Russia should pay for the damage it has caused inside Ukraine.

“Ukraine stunned us with their bravery, inspired us with ingenuity and awed us with their determination. Others could never match Ukraine’s courage, but it is our special responsibility to make a Ukrainian victory happen.

“Ukrainians tell us that when they imagine their future, they see Europe’s flag flying over their cities. And I have no doubt that Ukraine will be part of our union.”

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said the US was providing a further $1.3bn (£1bn) in additional aid including $520m to overhaul its energy grid, of which half has been destroyed by Russia. A further $675m will be provided to update its infrastructure, ports and border crossings, including to funds to digitalise trade. He said the US had provided $60bn in aid but eventually only the private sector could provide the investments that Ukraine needed. Blinken also insisted: “Russia will eventually bear the cost of Ukraine’s reconstruction.”

Richard Branson, the Virgin owner and a Ukraine ambassador for business, condemned those companies still operating in Russia and called for sanctions to be strengthened and loopholes to be tightened.

Zelenskiy tried to present a vision of how a postwar Ukraine could become a future bulwark for security, stability, democracy and prosperity across the west.

He said Ukraine could provide grains to 600 million consumers, lithium for batteries, metallurgy, fertilisers and green energy.

He added that there was no alternative to the green transformation of the economy saying “each strike on our energy facilities ends the era of fossil fuel dominance and a world over-dependent on one supplier, Russia”.

He claimed Vladimir Putin had invaded Ukraine not just to steal resources, but because Russia was “worried about our democracy because democracy paves the way for rule of law and getting rid of corruption”.

He urged western leaders to have the “courage” to acknowledge that his country was already a key part of their economic and defence alliances. “We are only waiting for the courage of the alliance leaders to recognise this reality, politically,” he told the conference.

Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, said: “Before this terrible war, Ukraine’s economy was becoming a huge investment opportunity.

“It was the breadbasket of Europe, exporting millions of tonnes of food and grain each month, a top-five exporter of iron ore and steel, a leader in energy – pushing forward renewables, hydrogen and electric vehicles – and a start-up nation […] with a thriving tech sector, which actually had a record year in 2022.

“The truth is, that opportunity is still there today – in fact the war has only proved how much Ukraine has to offer.”

He highlighted Ukraine’s technological expertise, saying IT experts and the military have developed a mobile app to track the Shahed drones being used by Russia. Sunak said that when he visited Kyiv in November, he saw the people’s spirit of “ingenuity and innovation”.

“In a converted office block I met tech experts – civilian and military – who were working together to find new ways to bolster the country’s defences.

“They were networking mobile phones so that people across Ukraine could download an app which would allow their phone to pick up the sound of the Shahed drones and feed back the location so that Ukrainian air defence could track them and shoot them down.”


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