Zelenskyy praises West's support for Ukraine as billions committed to assist reconstruction

Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared at the conference by videolink. Credit: PA

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said "the eyes of the world are looking at us" as he praised Western leaders for committing to support the reconstruction of his war-torn country.

He addressed the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London via video link on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reiterated their support for the country.

"The eyes of the world are looking at us and whether we will defeat Russian aggression exactly as freedom deserves to win, that is without compromising our values," Zelenskyy said.

"Also, the world is watching to see if we will restore normal life in such a way that our transformation will land an ideological defeat on the aggressor.

"We protect Ukraine, and thus we protect freedom. And when we build Ukraine, we’ll build freedom."

President Zelenskky praises the commitments made at the conference and urged the world to unite behind the reconstruction of Ukraine

He stressed that re-constructing Ukraine is, and should be, a global priority and that "by building Ukraine, we are building much more than one country."

Calculating the cost of the damage caused to Ukrainian buildings and infrastructure has been difficult throughout the war.

Prior to the destruction of the Novo Kakhovka dam earlier this month, the World Bank estimated it would cost $411bn (£323bn) to repair Ukraine's economy after Russia's invasion.Since then the bank has predicted its estimate will increase dramatically.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak commits the UK to help rebuild and says 'the war has only proved how much Ukraine has to offer'

President Zelenskyy, who is pushing for Ukraine to join Nato and the European Union, urged Western leaders to have the "courage" to acknowledge that his country is 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 said.

Thousands of delegates from business, government and civil society groups have gathered for the conference, which Sunak hailed in an opening address as an opportunity to "plant the seeds of Ukraine’s future".

At the conference, the PM announced $3bn US (£2.35bn) in bank loan guarantees to bolster the rebuilding of Kyiv, in partnership with the World Bank.

Downing Street said the guarantees amount to the first bilateral package of multi-year fiscal assistance to be set out by a G7 country, with the funding expected to support public services, including the cost of running schools and hospitals.

He said Ukraine had been a huge investment opportunity before adding: "The truth is, that opportunity is still there today – in fact the war has only proved how much Ukraine has to offer."

The prime minister committed the UK to assisting with reconstruction. Credit: PA

Ms von der Leyen also told the conference she has "no doubt" that Ukraine will join the EU.

Praising the country’s progress on reform, she said: "Together we gather here to tell Ukrainians that their dream is also our dream.

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

Zelenskyy also appeared to offer Sunak a fresh invitation to visit Ukraine, following his trip there last year.

"By the way, Prime Minister Rishi, we have not seen each other in Kyiv for quite a while," he said.

Sunak responded: "Thank you, Volodymyr, not least for providing options for my summer holiday in a couple of months."

Foreign ministers from around the world addressed delegates on Wednesday morning, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken among those pledging backing for Kyiv as leaders stressed the importance of the private sector and foreign investment in the redevelopment of Ukraine.

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