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Ukraine hopes to rally world leaders to help fund its reconstruction

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Finance ministers and government officials from around the world were in Washington this week for the annual gathering of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, among them the prime minister of Ukraine. He's trying to rally the world to help rebuild his country even as Russia continues to wage war on it. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The World Bank estimates that it will take $411 billion to rebuild Ukraine, and many here in Washington say that's a conservative estimate, one that is rising as fighting continues. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the heads of the IMF and the World Bank via video this week that countries should just confiscate Russian assets and use that to rebuild Ukraine.

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PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: Russia must feel the full price of its aggression.

KELEMEN: Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal says that was a big topic in his meetings in Washington this week as he spoke to donors about the large reconstruction price tag.

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DENYS SHMYHAL: So it's huge money, and we understand that not United States taxpayers, not European taxpayers - shouldn't pay this amount. Actually, aggressor should compensate all losses and damages for Ukraine.

KELEMEN: He did some deals in Washington securing promises of $5 billion in aid. And he's confident that the world will be there to help Ukraine rebuild. The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, says the Ukrainian government has done a good job collecting taxes and delivering vital services to businesses and individuals. That's despite Russia's devastating attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure.

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KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA: The country is performing remarkably well under the most devastating of circumstances, and that is why it has the confidence of its people and it has the confidence of the international community.

KELEMEN: The IMF recently signed a $15.5 billion loan program for Ukraine, the first time it has done so to a country in the midst of a conflict. The Biden administration has poured in tens of billions of dollars, mostly in weapons but also to help keep the Ukrainian government afloat. And U.S. officials are vowing to help as long as it takes.

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GINA RAIMONDO: Having said that, we want as long as it takes to be as short as possible, right?

(APPLAUSE)

KELEMEN: That's Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo speaking to business leaders at a forum on Ukraine.

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RAIMONDO: We want to end this unjust war, and we want to get to the business of rebuilding Ukraine and to show that your democracy will thrive, that good will prevail over evil. And then out the other side of this will be a more vibrant, thriving economy connected to the United States.

KELEMEN: But there is growing concern in Congress about the high costs of the war. Prime Minister Shmyhal is trying to tamp down concerns about donor fatigue.

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SHMYHAL: We are very encouraged to win this war. We are very encouraged to liberate our territories. We are very sure in all of our partners. We are very united with our partners. And, again, I will repeat, no one is fatigued.

KELEMEN: He's also trying to allay concerns about corruption in Ukraine. He says the country has taken more anti-corruption measures during the past year of war than in the more than three decades since the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine became an independent state. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAUL SIMON SONG, "FATHER AND DAUGHTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.