Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, fresh off her trip to the US to plead for more weapons as her embattled nation fends off invading Russian forces, is looking to the future Saturday.
Zelenska’s second annual Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen, convened in Kyiv with virtual attendees from around the world, aims to plant the seeds of an international reconstruction effort that will rebuild her country’s physical structures — as well as its human capital — once the war ends.
“At the Summit, we will discuss the post-war future of Ukraine and the world,” Zelenska said earlier this month as she announced her plans. “How can the state invest in people so that it gives impetus to the country’s development.”
The conference, hosted by journalist Piers Morgan, includes appearances from David Beckham in his role as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, actors Richard Gere, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, and others.
The summit follows a July 4 conference in Switzerland where President Volodymyr Zelensky outlined an ambitious $750 billion reconstruction plan in the wake of a Russian invasion that has damaged or destroyed at least 80,000 buildings.
“This is Russia’s attack on everything that is of value to you and me,” Zelensky said. “Therefore, the reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local project—not a project of one nation—but a joint task of the entire democratic world.”
Direct damage to Ukraine’s physical infrastructure was estimated at $103.9 billion as of June 8, according to the Kyiv School of Economics.
Zelenska visited the White House Wednesday and gave an emotional address to Congress, where she pleaded for further American military assistance.