The federal government is considering whether to follow other countries and pledge to rebuild ruined infrastructure in an “adopted” part of Ukraine.
The proposal was first discussed by foreign and Ukrainian ambassadors at a meeting in July in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and put forward to the Australian government shortly afterwards by Ukrainian ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko. A more detailed proposal was submitted late last month.
The presentation, seen by Crikey, shows that 10 nations have pledged to partner with regions. Turkey will take on Kharkiv, The Netherlands will help rebuild Kherson, and Italy will tackle three regions: it’s pledged to take on Odesa and will partner with the UK to rebuild Kyiv and Estonia to rebuild Zhytomyr. Chernihiv will be rebuilt by Lativa, France and Sweden.
Myroshnychenko told Crikey he had suggested Australia team up with Denmark to adopt the Mykolaiv region in the south, which has undergone near-constant shelling by Russian forces, although it remains controlled by Ukraine. Australia could also team up with The Netherlands to help rebuild neighbouring Kherson, which is occupied by Russia. Both Mykolaiv and Kherson border the Black Sea.
“The logic was because it’s a maritime area and it’s on the Black Sea, lots of help will be needed with rebuilding ports and shipbuilding, which is an area of expertise for Australia,” he said. “There’s heavy fighting going on, but the ambition is to expand reconstruction to Kherson once we retake it.”
Myroshnychenko also suggested that Australia and New Zealand join forces as an Anzac endeavour: “There’s so much industrial work that will have to happen in rebuilding schools, hospitals and utilities.”
Kherson has been the focus of Russia’s attention since the beginning of the invasion. Much of the grain harvested by Ukraine is transported along the Dnipro river into Black Sea ports. The region also houses solar plants and wind farms which have attracted investors from Sweden, Qatar and Spain. There are concerns these plants have been destroyed or looted.
Moscow has set out to formally annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia after a “referendum” in occupied areas. The referendum has been criticised by the international community as being coercive and non-representative.
The Ukrainian government estimates there are more than 86,000 “damaged objects”, ranging from houses to transport, healthcare facilities to schools. Just under half of those are in de-occupied areas and in “urgent” need of restoration, including 373 schools and kindergartens and 148 hospitals and clinics.
Ukraine isn’t just looking for federal governments to fund its reconstruction: Myroshnychenko said it hopes Ukrainian municipalities can partner with foreign municipalities, local and state governments, private businesses and individual donors to fundraise to rebuild specific infrastructure.
He said so far the response from the Albanese government had been “positive,” although no official commitments have been made.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told Crikey the government would work with partners to support Ukraine and consider all formal requests for further assistance: “The Australian government continues to engage with our Ukrainian counterparts and acknowledges the significant challenges associated with rebuilding Ukraine.”