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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says he expects to secure billions of euros in pledges for his country’s defense and postwar reconstruction while attending the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin.

Germany is hosting a two-day conference to plan Ukraine’s postwar reconstruction and recovery once the war sparked by Russia’s full-scale invasion, which has left large swathes of the country in ruins, ends. It brings together 2,000 people from politics, business, and other spheres.

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“We will leave this conference with agreements for billions of euros for our defence, regarding the production of military equipment and weapons in Ukraine, and for our energy, for repairing and building a new and more modern energy system,” Zelenskiy told the two-day conference that began on June 11 in the German capital.

Zelenskiy highlighted Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities, which he said have destroyed half of the country’s electricity generation capacity since winter.

“As a result of the strikes of Russian missiles and drones, 9 gigawatts of capacity have already been destroyed. The peak of electricity consumption last winter was 18 gigawatts. So half now doesn’t exist,” Zelenskiy said.

Sustained Russian attacks on Ukraine’s power grid have forced Kyiv to institute nationwide rolling blackouts.

Zelenskiy urged Kyiv’s allies to supply more air-defense systems to Ukraine, saying it was “the answer” to halting Russian advances and securing lasting peace.

“Russia’s greatest strategic advantage over Ukraine is superiority in the sky. It is missile and bomb terror that helps Russian troops advance on the ground,” Zelenskiy said, adding: “Air defense is the answer.”

In a statement issued ahead of the conference, German Development Minister Svenja Schulze said that “even during the current times of war, Ukraine needs to continually rebuild houses, water pipelines, hospitals, and power grids.”

“People want to keep on living in their country, and to do so they need electricity, water, and a roof over their heads,” the statement added.
Germany is the second-largest supplier of military equipment to Kyiv after the United States.

The conference is taking place a day after the United States removed restrictions on the transfer of American weapons and training to the controversial Ukrainian military unit the Azov Brigade.

The move will help the unit, one of Ukraine’s most effective and popular fighting groups, move beyond its reputation as a far-right movement that has been a constant target of Russian propaganda.

The brigade, which ferociously defended the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol during the early months of Russia’s full-scale invasion before finally succumbing, was barred from using American arms in 2014 because U.S. officials said they found some of its founders embraced racist, xenophobic, and ultranationalist views and that the group associated with far-right groups and neo-Nazi ideology.

UN human rights officials have accused the brigade of committing humanitarian violations.

U.S. law prohibits the provision of equipment and training to foreign military unit or individuals suspected of committing gross human rights violations, but the State Department said the Leahy vetting process was applied to the Azov Brigade, which has been taken into Ukraine’s National Guard as the 12th Special Forces Brigade.

It added that it found “no evidence of Gross Violations of Human Rights (GVHR) committed by the 12th Brigade Azov.”

The Berlin conference comes ahead of a G7 meeting in Italy on June 13-14 where Ukraine will be one of the main topics as countries discuss how to use profits generated by Russian assets frozen in the West to provide Kyiv with financing.

Following that, more than 90 countries and organizations will be represented at a peace summit in Switzerland over the weekend, although Russia was not invited and China will not attend.

Meeting in Latvia on June 11, NATO’s eastern flank leaders, known as the Bucharest Nine, said they will take “a more coordinated approach” to Ukraine when it comes to support.

Meanwhile, Russian forces continued attacks on Ukrainian targets, with Ukrainian authorities saying at least five people were injured in blasts in the city of Konstantynivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

The office of the regional prosecutor said on Facebook on June 11 that the victims sustained injuries “as a result of broken glass and a powerful blast wave.”

At least, 13 residential buildings were damaged by the attack that occurred late in the evening on June 10, the statement added.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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