Germany Hosts Recovery Conference for Ukraine Before a Peace Summit in Switzerland 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pose for a picture during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, Germany, June 11, 2024. (Reuters)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pose for a picture during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, Germany, June 11, 2024. (Reuters)
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Germany Hosts Recovery Conference for Ukraine Before a Peace Summit in Switzerland 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pose for a picture during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, Germany, June 11, 2024. (Reuters)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pose for a picture during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, Germany, June 11, 2024. (Reuters)

Germany is hosting a conference on Tuesday to gather support for Ukraine's recovery from the destruction wreaked by Russia's war, sending a new signal of solidarity with Kyiv at the start of a week of intense diplomacy.

The two-day Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, following up on a similar gathering in London a year ago, comes before the Group of Seven summit of Ukraine's leading Western allies in Italy and a global peace summit in Switzerland this coming weekend.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who last week attended events marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, is expected at the gathering, which the German hosts say will bring together 2,000 people from politics, business and other areas.

"Even during the current times of war, Ukraine needs to continually rebuild houses, water pipelines, hospitals and power grids," German Development Minister Svenja Schulze said in a statement. "People want to keep on living in their country, and to do so they need electricity, water and a roof over their heads."

The task of supporting Ukraine's recovery in the short and long term "is too big to be tackled by governments alone — which is why we are expressly inviting companies, civil society and municipalities to the conference," Schulze added.

Among other immediate problems Ukraine faces, sustained Russian attacks on its power grid in recent weeks have forced leaders in Kyiv to institute nationwide rolling blackouts.

In London last year, Ukraine’s allies pledged several billion dollars in nonmilitary aid to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, fight corruption and help pave Kyiv's road to membership in the European Union.

That focus on reforms remains central this year.

"We are pulling out all the stops so that Ukraine can soon take a seat at the table of the European Union — because, in addition to our military support, that’s the best protection there is," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

On Monday, the head of the State Agency for Restoration of Ukraine, Mustafa Nayyem, announced his resignation on Facebook. He cited "systemic obstacles that prevent me from exercising my powers effectively" and accused the government of bogging his agency down in red tape.

Ukraine hasn't had a minister dedicated to reconstruction since Oleksandr Kubrakov was dismissed in May. Nayyem complained that Ukraine's prime minister barred him from attending the Berlin conference.

Zelenskyy, making his third visit to Berlin since Russia's full-scale invasion started on Feb. 24, 2022, is also expected to make a speech to the German parliament, or Bundestag. He made a video address to lawmakers a few weeks after the war started.

The Ukrainian president last visited in mid-February, when he signed a bilateral security agreement with German Chancellor OIaf Scholz, one of a string of such accords that allies have reached with Kyiv to signal their long-term backing.



UK’s Nigel Farage Says the West Provoked Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine

 Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage delivers a speech at a hotel in Blackpool, northwestern England, on June 20, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)
Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage delivers a speech at a hotel in Blackpool, northwestern England, on June 20, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)
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UK’s Nigel Farage Says the West Provoked Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine

 Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage delivers a speech at a hotel in Blackpool, northwestern England, on June 20, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)
Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage delivers a speech at a hotel in Blackpool, northwestern England, on June 20, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)

Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain's right-wing Reform UK party, said the eastward of expansion of the European Union and NATO had provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

The remarks, made in an interview with the BBC aired late on Friday, drew strong criticism across the British political spectrum ahead of a July 4 election in which Farage's party is predicted to win millions of votes.

Farage said he stood by comments made shortly after Moscow's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, when he posted on social media that the move was a "consequence of EU and NATO expansion". He said he had been predicting a war in Ukraine as early as 2014.

"It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, 'They're coming for us again' and to go to war," Farage said in Friday's BBC interview.

"We provoked this war ... of course it's his (Putin's) fault - he's used what we've done as an excuse."

Russia casts its special military operation in Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West, which it says wants to bring Russia to its knees. Kyiv and the West reject this and accuse Russia of waging an illegal war of conquest.

Farage's decades of campaigning against Britain's membership of the EU and mass immigration has made him one of the country's most recognizable and divisive politicians.

His surprise entry into the election race has further hit Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's hopes of closing the center-left Labour Party's opinion poll lead.

Even though Reform is unlikely to win many seats in parliament, it could split the right-of-center vote across the country. The party held only one seat in the last parliament, which it gained when a Conservative lawmaker defected.

Farage's remarks on Ukraine drew immediate condemnation.

Sunak said Farage was "completely wrong", accusing him of appeasement that put Britain and its allies' security at risk. Labour's defense spokesman John Healey called Farage's comments disgraceful and labelled him a "Putin apologist".

Farage later posted on X: "Putin was wrong to invade a sovereign nation, and the EU was wrong to expand eastward. The sooner we realize this, the closer we will be to ending the war and delivering peace."