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EU Urges Support for Rebuilding Ukraine Amid ‘Staggering’ Destruction

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged support Tuesday for the “fast rehabilitation” of Ukraine as it faces what she called targeted attacks by Russian forces on civilian infrastructure.

Speaking in Berlin at a conference to discuss the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine, von der Leyen said Russia is clearly working to cut off Ukrainians from water, heat and electricity services as winter approaches. She said such Russian attacks “are pure acts of terror.”

Von der Leyen described the scale of destruction in Ukraine eight months after Russia launched its invasion as “staggering.”

“These are hard, scary and painful days for Ukrainians, but Ukrainians are showing us that they have hope and confidence in the future and they will keep fighting for it. And it is their future that brings us here today,” she said.

The conference involves representatives from national governments, academic institutions and international organizations. The EU said the talks would cover how to prioritize Ukraine’s needs and what options exist for financing projects.

No financial pledges or political agreements are expected.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is addressing the conference.

Ukraine’s government, along with the European Commission and the World Bank, estimated in a September report that it could cost $350 billion to rebuild the country after Russia’s invasion.

The World Bank on Monday disbursed $500 million, supported by loan guarantees from Britain to Ukraine to help the government maintain essential services.

“The Russian invasion continues to cause massive destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure — including water, sanitation, and electricity networks — just as winter is approaching, further endangering Ukrainian people,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a statement.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Monday about meeting Ukraine’s needs for military aid, according to statements from both sides.

Ukraine denies planning to use “dirty bomb”

They also discussed U.S. support for Ukraine amid Russia’s claims that Ukraine was preparing to use a “dirty bomb,” an allegation Ukraine and its allies have dismissed.

Diplomats said Russia told its counterparts on the U.N. Security Council it will bring up the issue during a close-door meeting of the 15-member body Tuesday.

Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya sent a letter, seen by VOA, to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council late Monday, saying Russia “will regard the use of the dirty bomb by the Kiev regime as an act of nuclear terrorism.”

Ukraine has strongly denied Moscow’s allegations that it is planning to detonate a dirty bomb on its own territory and has in turn accused Russia of plotting to use the threat of a bomb laced with nuclear material as a pretext for escalation in Ukraine.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price warned Monday of the “profound nature of consequences” that would befall Russia if it used a dirty bomb or any other nuclear weapon.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that NATO allies rejected Russia’s claims that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory and added “Russia must not use it as a pretext for escalation.”

Stoltenberg said he had a call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his British counterpart, Ben Wallace, on the matter Monday.

Russian troops prep for “radioactive contamination”

Meanwhile, the head of Russia’s nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, in a media briefing said Russian forces are “preparing to work under radioactive contamination.”

U.S. officials said Monday there is currently no indication that Moscow has made any efforts to use a dirty bomb or nuclear weapons.

“We continue to see nothing in the way of preparations by the Russian side for the use of nuclear weapons,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi confirmed that “no undeclared nuclear activities or material were found” in Ukrainian nuclear locations.

“The IAEA inspected one of these locations one month ago and all our findings were consistent with Ukraine’s safeguards declarations,” Grossi said.

Grossi confirmed that both locations are under IAEA safeguards and have been visited regularly by IAEA inspectors. He added that the IAEA received a written request from Ukraine Monday to send teams of inspectors to carry out verification activities at the two locations.

Pelosi calls drones “dangerous”

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that Iran was making the world less safe by supplying Russia with drones to be used against targets in Ukraine.

“I think Iran is making a big mistake,” Pelosi said after meeting Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. “First of all, we have to be able to counter the drones … it is a dangerous technology, and it must be stopped,” she said.

Pelosi arrived in Zagreb Monday to attend “The Crimea Platform Summit,” on Ukraine’s independence and the return of the Crimean Peninsula to Kyiv since its annexation by Russia in 2014.

“We’ve been trying for a while now to have a nuclear agreement with Iran so that we can make the world a safer place, and now they’re going off aiding the Russians and making the world a less safe place,” Pelosi said.

Iran has denied supplying drones to Russia for use in Ukraine and condemned a call by Britain, France and Germany for the United Nations to investigate whether Russia used Iranian-made attack drones.

Iran will not remain indifferent if it is proved that its drones are being used by Russia in Ukraine, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was reported as saying by Iranian state media Monday.

He also said that the defense cooperation between Tehran and Moscow will continue.

VOA’s U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this article. Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.