• Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal says Russian aggression has caused $411 billion losses
• President Volodymyr Zelensky vows to fight against oppression and 'colonialist' aims
Ukraine has become synonymous with war since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, during which time it has lost a fifth of its territory. However, President Volodymyr Zelensky believes they will prevail.
He said the war is because of the colonialist aspirations of Russia, but they will do everything within their power to fight against oppression.
I was in a group of journalist from 10 African countries who visited Ukraine last week.
The journalists were from, Angola, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Tunisia and Zambia.
We found a country that has undergone suffering but is determined to rise again.
Streets had damaged houses and other critical infrastructure like bridges, most as a result of shelling by Russian soldiers or rocket, missile and drone strikes.
But at the same time, there were men busy working to repair them.
About 21 months after the war started, Ukraine has lost at least 30 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is operating with a massive budget deficit.
“Currently the gap in our budget is about $40 billion (Sh6 trillion). This is what Russia has done to us,” Zelensky said.
We will certainly win in this fight for freedom, and history will give you an answer as to why Ukraine is so determined to fight for its survivalVolodymyr Zelensky
He said most of the revenue they collect is channelled to the Ukrainian army to support their efforts to protect their land and territories.
“When you are at war, you can’t develop your infrastructure. You are in the game of survival,” he said.
“We are currently spending all we have financially to develop our defence capabilities and production, but this is temporary. We will certainly win in this fight for freedom, and history will give you an answer as to why Ukraine is so determined to fight for its survival.”
The Ukrainian President said that while the war seems like it is becoming a frozen conflict and the end does not seem close, life has to go on, and this can only be possible if they rebuild their country.
The rebuilding process is led by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
The World Bank estimates the damage and losses as a result of the Russian aggression at $411 billion (Sh62 trillion). This is only in terms of infrastructure.
Shmyhal said this is only the damage that has been accounted for so far from areas Ukrainian soldiers have liberated from occupation by Russian forces.
“We cannot calculate what Russia has destroyed in the occupied territories. I expect that the figure of $411 billion would double,” he said.
Shmyhal said so far, they have liberated 50 per cent of the territories that were occupied by Russia since the war started.
"When Russia was invading Ukraine, they hoped to conquer us in three days," he said.
"Ukraine has liberated the Kyiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kherson regions. This is half of the territories earlier captured by Russia."
The Ukrainian Prime Minister says they live knowing that Russia could attack anytime. Nonetheless, they have five areas they are giving priority in the rebuilding process.
These range from fixing electricity grids destroyed by Russia to restoring livelihoods.
Shmyhal said it is difficult to do anything without electricity these days, and that even offering minimum humanitarian services will be impossible without electricity.
“Priority number two is demining because without this and electricity, you only mean to see more people die,” he said.
“The third priority is rebuilding housing. People, and our refugees in particular, would not get back to Ukraine if they had nowhere to return. Our climate in Ukraine is far from being merciful, winters are severe, you cannot live where you have no windows or doors, and minimum heating capabilities should be there.
“The fourth priority is total renovation of critical infrastructure. And number five is to provide people with the capabilities to earn money and feed their families. This is by rebuilding job stations and small businesses.”
Through their rapid recovery programme, which ensures they give minimum humanitarian assistance to those in the frontlines, the PM says that they have been able to rebuild at least 500 schools and kindergartens, 800 hospitals, and 20 bridges that were destroyed during the war. Shmyhal says the recovery programme will cost at least $14 billion annually.
He says the government has an e-registry system that is used to help Ukrainians rebuild, which has so far received more than 350,000 applications from people who have lost their homes or have had their homes destroyed due to the war.
“We've initiated a project called e-rebuilding, and we provide four types of public services there,” Shmyhal said.
“We compensate some $5,000 to repair the partially destroyed premises. We give the same amount to people who have provided their own renovations.
“The third product we offer is a certificate to those who have lost all their housing to choose whether to purchase an apartment or they can purchase construction material and rebuild, and the fourth option is renovation of multistory buildings which have been ruined by aircraft bombs or anything.”
He added that there are 900 multistory apartment buildings damaged and it will cost $1 billion to renovate.
He said that the Ukrainian government is also working with the international community and have developed Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects to allow investors to come into Ukraine, implement projects and also help renovate infrastructure.
“We are also cooperating with communities and we have decentralised our country and there are communities that give national funds,” Shmyhal said.
“For example, in Kyiv region, out of 28,000 ruined objects, some 12,000 have already been renovated through public funds, charity contributions and private funds.”
The Ukrainian government is also working to revive its once-thriving economy by employing a series of measures, including giving specialised grants for Small, Micro and Medium businesses.
The Prime Minister said in most countries, small businesses are the backbone of the economy and Ukraine is moving towards that direction.
“Unfortunately, Ukraine has lost 3.5 million job stations. We've also lost big production facilities. This renovation will take time,” Shmyhal said.
While at it, Ukraine is also working to protect some of its big foreign revenue earners, like the Port of Odesa, which sits on the Black Sea. The port has been critical in the transportation of grain from Ukraine to the rest of the world, but since the war started, it has been subjected to regular attacks by Russia, reducing its output.
Zelensky said they are working to create opportunities through the port even though Russia's attacks haven't stopped, in efforts to revive the economy. This includes working with international partners to have risk insurance services for vessels that will transport grain from the port of Odesa.
“We managed to create a new parallel corridor, and you may tell Africans that we have grown up our railway capacity several fold,” the Ukrainian President said.
“So I think that we will be able to ship enough grain to Africa. It is important for us to remain a guarantor of food security.”
Ukraine insists that the war can only end when Russia withdraws its soldiers from the occupied areas, and abides to the Peace Plan proposed by Zelensky.
Shmyhal said the peace formula is not only about Ukraine but the future of the world, stability, development and new possibilities.
"I would like to emphasise that Ukraine is not looking for peace but a fair, just and long-term peace, and it's only possible according to the peace formula by President Zelensky,” the PM said.
President Zelensky's peace plan emphasises 10 key points, including radiation and nuclear safety, food security, energy security, release of all prisoners and deportees and implementation of the UN Charter and restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity and the world order.
It also seeks the withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities, justice and immediate protection of the environment, prevention of escalation and confirmation of the end of the war.
Ukraine also wants Russia’s frozen assets across the world, which they estimate to be worth about $300 billion, to be used to compensate for the damage and losses caused in Ukraine.
The PM said without the compensation, Ukraine will not be able to rebuild.
“Russia as an aggressor state ought to pay for the losses and destruction it has inflicted and the economic losses we have to bear. This is a very important issue without which we cannot rebuild," Shmyhal said.
“We did not calculate in human lives lost or economy as such, but it should be a big resource to start and accelerate rebuilding Ukraine as we are the victims of the unprovoked aggression on the part of Russia.”
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