At the Swiss meeting, US focuses on Ukraine's 'urgent needs'

LUGANO (Switzerland) -- On Tuesday, a top U.

At the Swiss meeting, US focuses on Ukraine's 'urgent needs'

LUGANO (Switzerland) -- On Tuesday, a top U.S. diplomat urged Ukraine's allies to assist the country in its "immediate" and "urgent" needs. This was as a result of scores of countries wrapping up a two day conference aimed at helping Ukraine rebuild after Russia's war.

Scott Miller, U.S. ambassador in Switzerland, gave urgency to the Ukraine Recovery Conference held in Lugano. The Ukrainian prime minister had presented a $750 million plan to help his country recover both now (where possible) and in the immediate aftermath.

Many people pointed out that rebuilding will need to be done in multiple phases and would likely take years. Many attendees suggested that support be given to Ukraine in the same way as the U.S. Marshall Plan of Europe after World War II, hinting at a large-scale long-term effort.

"While we acknowledge the importance of preparing Ukraine's future," Miller said. Miller was one of many government envoys that decried Russia's war, and described their support for Ukraine.

However, some cautioned that quick fixes are unlikely.

Ignazio Cassis, the Swiss President, stated that he understood that they want to be ready overnight and to start tomorrow. "But, we clearly state: It's the first step in a long journey."

Cassis flanked Denys Shmyhal as Ukrainian Prime Minister. He warned that his government would choose carefully the immediate projects to rebuild infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, while war rages on. Russian forces could "destroy" it.

Shmyhal stated that "it will be an incomplete process", referring to a larger "fast recovery" phase. We should wait until the war ends and then we can begin this rapid recovery.

He expressed hopes that he could lock down and use an estimated $300 billion-$500 billion of Russian-owned assets, which have been frozen in many Western bank accounts to pay for Ukraine's reconstruction. This money could be used to supplement the cash in Ukraine's -- already stretched --budget and support from other allies.

He stated that it was important for the civilized world, and Russia as aggressor, to send a signal to Russia. He said that Russia should be responsible for the recovery.

Cassis pointed out the legal complexities involved in wresting such Russian funds. He said that "the right to property is a fundamental rights -- it is a human right." Switzerland's Bankers Association estimates that between 150 and 200 billion francs of Russian-owned assets are in Swiss financial institutions.

According to the Swiss leader, fundamental rights can sometimes be violated, as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. "But we must first create the legal basis" for such actions.

Cassis stated, "You must ensure that the citizen is protected against power of the state."

The "Lugano Declaration", a final document, outlined goals to help Ukraine rebuild its foundations. It relates to transparency in government, respect for the environment and fighting corruption, which has plagued Ukraine since it separated from Russia three decades ago.

Many believe that the European Union's plans to accept Ukraine as a member in the future could be a way to support this reform process.

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Follow AP's coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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