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USAID chief makes case for rebuilding Ukraine

KYIV — Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, visited Kyiv on Thursday and highlighted American funding for efforts to rebuild Ukrainian infrastructure, resurrect a damaged economy and other initiatives designed to blunt the effects of a punishing war with Russia.

The visit by the USAID administrator marked the first high-level American delegation to the Ukrainian capital since Russia announced its illegal annexation of vast swaths of eastern and central Ukraine last week.

During a day-long stop, Power met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, toured U.S.-funded reconstruction and agriculture projects, and met with local journalists and entrepreneurs. Throughout, she made the case for the value of America’s nonmilitary assistance to Ukraine, which has totaled some $10 billion since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion on Feb. 24.

“What’s at stake here is whether freedom-loving people get to decide for themselves how they live, under whom they live, whether they get to choose their own leadership, whether they get to live their national identity, their culture, speak their language,” she said. “The essence of the values that define civilization are at stake in this conflict … U.S. support for this cause is so worth it.”

Power toured a residential area of Kyiv struck by Russian missiles earlier this year, where USAID is funding the repair and upgrade of damaged pipes that knocked out heat and hot water for nearly a dozen apartment buildings and several schools.

Speaking alongside partially reconstructed buildings, Power said the United States would provide an additional $55 million for winterizing Ukrainian homes and buildings.

“This matters a lot as we head into winter, as Ukrainians worry a lot about what winter will bring, as Putin seeks to weaponize energy and heat, in a sense to weaponize winter, in the same way that he has weaponized food and attempted again to inflict violence and inhumanity on people of this country,” she said.

Power also visited an agricultural area outside of Kyiv where USAID is funding a program that supports the use of drones in farming in Ukraine, traditionally known as the breadbasket of Europe.

Valerii Iakovenko, founder of DroneUA, said the application of pesticides by drone enabled larger crop yields because it did not damage plants like other means of application and, since the onset of the war, had reduced farmers’ risk of land mine injuries.

Farmers told Power about the setbacks they had faced because of the war, including damage under Russian occupation and the need to scramble to find alternate export routes. U.S. officials are hoping that a deal brokered by Turkey in July, which permitted Ukraine to resume the export of grain via the Black Sea following a prolonged Russian blockade, can be extended before it expires later this month.

She linked the challenges faced by Ukrainian farmers to a spiraling food security crisis that was dramatically worsened by the war. In August, an initial shipment of Ukrainian grain arrived in the Horn of Africa, where a severe drought has contributed to a hunger crisis.

The fruit of the Ukrainian farmers’ labor, Power said, “makes a world of difference for people very, very far away.”

The United States is surging military and civilian assistance to Ukraine as a series of other global forces, including drought, flooding, and rising prices for commodities and shipping, have intensified humanitarian needs and stretched aid dollars. In Yemen, for example, the World Food Program has struggled to secure adequate funding at a time when more than 2 million children require assistance for acute malnutrition.

Power noted recent steps by the Biden administration to staunch those problems, including a new commitment announced by President Biden last month of $2 billion in additional U.S. emergency aid.

“I do look at a global set of global crises that are interlocking,” she said. “Having said that, every war that can be brought to an end makes that global picture one with fewer displaced people. Any time you can take a war situation and it moves from the war ledger to the post-war ledger, there’s a whole different set of challenges.”

“But that is the path that Ukraine wants to be on, and everything we do we do with an eye to accelerating the day in which peace comes to this country,” she added.

Power’s visit was not announced ahead of time. Unlike other world leaders who have made visits to Ukraine to show their support, Biden has not traveled to the country since the war began.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia fired at least 85 missiles on at least six major cities in Ukraine on November 15, in one of the most widespread attacks of the war so far. The strikes came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking by video link, presented a 10-point peace plan to G-20 leaders at a summit in Indonesia. As in previous Russian missile attacks, critical civilian infrastructure appeared to be primary targets. Parts of several cities that were hit were left without electrical power on Tuesday afternoon.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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