By Ian Lovett and Bojan Pancevski
Oct. 25, 2022
The Wall Street Journal
BERLIN—Ukraine is stepping up its requests for economic and military support from the West following weeks of Russian missile-and-drone attacks on civilian infrastructure that have left the country struggling to produce enough electricity.
President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed Western political and business leaders gathering in Berlin on Tuesday for more funding to rebuild his country. “Russia destroys everything,” Mr. Zelensky said by video link at the opening of the Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction and Modernisation of Ukraine. Economic support, he said, “is not needed tomorrow, it is needed now. We have an urgent need to rebuild houses, schools, power plants.”
The conference is convening at a moment when Ukraine is in greater need of economic help than perhaps at any moment since Russian began its full-scale invasion in February. In recent weeks, Moscow has hammered Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, leaving much of the country with only intermittent electricity as winter approaches. More than a third of Ukraine’s electric stations have been hit, Ukrainian officials said.
Denys Shmyhal, the Ukrainian prime minister, said the war had wiped out at least 35% of the country’s economy, calling on the West to immediately provide an economic relief package of $17 billion. He also asked for $1.5 billion in economic aid a month from the European Commission next year, and another $1.5 billion a month from the U.S.
Mr. Zelensky’s economic adviser Alexander Rodnyansky, who attended the Berlin conference, asked the German government to provide 500 million euros a month, equivalent to $493.7 million, for 2023 to help keep the Ukrainian state afloat against Russian aggression.
The demands for economic aid come at a delicate time for Western leaders. Russia’s decision to cut the flow of natural gas to Europe has plunged the region into an energy crisis that is fueling inflation as well as protests across the continent. Germany has unleashed hundreds of billions in subsidies to cushion the blow for consumers and businesses, but other European countries lack the financial firepower to spend at a similar scale.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the conference’s host, said the rebuilding of Ukraine would be a task for generations to come. A close aide to Mr. Scholz said it would take decades to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and economy once the war ends. “This amounts to no less than the creation of a new Marshall Plan for the 21st century,” Mr. Scholz said, referring to the large aid package that the U.S. offered to help to rebuild Germany and Europe after World War II. “This can only be achieved by the entire global community, which is now lending its support to Ukraine.”
Last week, Mr. Zelensky met with a delegation of U.S. lawmakers, who said that in addition to his usual requests for weapons, he also pressed for economic support. One member of the delegation said Mr. Zelensky told them that Ukraine is running a monthly deficit of $5 billion and that money was needed to pay soldiers and to keep the government afloat.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is visiting Kyiv for the first time since the start of the invasion. He will meet Mr. Zelensky on Tuesday evening to discuss how to help Ukrainian citizens get through the winter, when electricity and heat may not be working in many areas, according to German officials.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials invited international inspectors to their nuclear plants following Russian allegations in recent days that the country planned to use a so-called dirty bomb. Ukraine has denied the charge,
and said that Russia may be planning its own such attack. Senior U.S. officials said Monday they saw no evidence Russia was preparing to deploy such a device, which combines conventional explosives with radioactive materials.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Monday that he had spoken with the head of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, and the agency had agreed to send experts to sites in Ukraine which Russia “deceitfully claims to be developing a dirty bomb.”
Though attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure have eased in recent days, Iranian drones were recently launched from Belarus toward the Kyiv region, Colonel Yuriy Ignat told Ukrainian media. The attack underscores growing concern about a renewed threat to Ukraine from Belarus, where thousands of Russian troops are being stationed.
In Eastern Ukraine, fighting continued around Bakhmut, which Russian forces have been pressing to take for weeks. In the south, both sides are preparing for a battle for Kherson, the only regional capital that Moscow has seized this year.
Russian-installed officials in Kherson said they were forming territorial defense units on Monday, after pushing civilians in the city to head east to territory more firmly under Russian control. Russian units west of the Dnipro River, where most of the city is located, have been largely cut off from reinforcements and supplies, as Ukrainian forces have spent months taking out bridges across the river, as well as Russian ammunition depots and logistics centers.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in the Kherson region, claimed that Russian forces were on the offensive in the region. “German to Australian armored vehicles. All this has already been ground and destroyed in the Kherson area,” he wrote on Telegram on Tuesday. “Our guys are ready to stand up to the end for Russian Kherson.”
Ukrainian officials said it didn’t appear the Russians were preparing a retreat from the city, despite moving civilians out.
Vivian Salama contributed to this article.