Russia’s war on Ukraine continues to exact a horrifying price.

Since Russian troops invaded the country in February 2022, the grinding conflict has displaced at least eight million people and caused a death toll currently in the tens of thousands. 

But the task ahead might also be the most expensive reconstruction effort in history. As the aggression continues, the price tag to all this destruction is rising at an alarming rate. The World Bank has estimated that the first year of destruction could cost as much as $411 billion/£334.8 billion to rectify. Some believe the price tag could rise to as much as $1 trillion.

But is it even possible to undo the destruction in Ukraine? What are the steps to rebuilding the country, how much will it cost and who is going to pay for it? 

Visit our War in Ukraine page to watch more videos from our Ukraine series.

$1 trillion to rebuild Ukraine: Who will fund it?


Voice over: "Russia's war on Ukraine continues to exact a horrifying price. Since Russian troops invaded in February 2022, the grinding conflict has displaced at least 8 million people, caused billions of dollars in damage and a death toll currently in the tens of thousands."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "My family was under Russian occupation for almost a month near Kyiv and it's a small miracle that nobody got hurt. According to some estimates, eighty percent of Ukrainians know somebody who died in their close circle."

Voice over: "Despite Russia's aggressive tactics, Ukraine has remained resilient and defiant. Embarking on what some have described as the largest rebuilding effort since the Second World War, they have already repaired and rebuilt bridges, roads, government buildings, as well as the power plants that were attacked in winter 2022."

Professor Michael Clarke: "It's a big state with a very inventive, very determined population and so Ukraine is improvising and repairing and restoring facilities even as they are being hit."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "Near Kyiv, there was a lot of destruction, but if you go to these places now you obviously see the scars of the wars, but if you're 80 kilometers away from the front line then you can do some rebuilding."

Voice over: "Much of Ukraine is a war zone but it's also known for its picturesque countryside, historic cities, rich culture and ancient architecture, all of which are at risk of destruction. UNESCO has verified damage to 240 cultural sites during the first year of the conflict alone. Even more alarming, a staggering 702 violent attacks were reported in the same period on medical facilities. This targeted bombardment has shattered Ukraine's Health System."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "All these attacks are rather indiscriminate - hospitals, schools, bridges, sport facilities, you name it, they don't care."

Professor Michael Clarke: "The idea is they hit the medical facilities first in order to increase the distress among the population and throw the system into chaos."

Voice over: "Ukraine is preparing themselves for more attacks in the coming months. Whatever you rebuild could be destroyed again. In winter 2022, attacks on the power grid took away electricity, water and heat from millions of citizens and left doctors no choice but to operate using nothing but the torch on their smartphones. Many expect Russia will target these vital services again, inflicting another cold and dark winter on Ukraine.

The task ahead might also be the most expensive reconstruction effort in history. The World Bank has estimated that the first year of destruction will cost as much as 411 billion dollars to rectify. Some believe this could rise to as much as one trillion dollars."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "It's incredible how much damage is inflicted on Ukraine. Schools, kindergartens, universities are destroyed or severely damaged. It's roughly nine percent of housing stock is destroyed so we're talking about millions of people who are affected by this."

Voice over: "According to some estimates, the cost of war damage has now reached 700 billion dollars, which is at least two and a half times the normal GDP of Ukraine before the war started. Representatives from more than 40 countries have created an official register of damage, to keep track of the ever-growing destruction caused by the Russian Federation. Approximately 50 percent of the damage has been to transport, housing and energy. On top of this, 35 percent of the population are displaced and at least 7 million have been pushed into poverty. In reality, it's impossible to know the real damage while certain territories are still no-go areas."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "We have no idea about the extent of damage in the cities which are now controlled by Russia. So think about Mariupol, they had roughly 400,000 people before the war, nobody really knows how many people are left there."

Voice over: "But one thing we do know, is that each day this conflict continues, the cost is rising."

Professor Michael Clarke: "The government needs between five and nine billion dollars every month in order just to pay the wages, to survive, just to function as a government. The war expenditure is taking so much of the budget that there's not enough money for everything else. About 15 percent of Ukraine is occupied, including the important agricultural land. The Russians are trying to destroy crops or steal them, bombing as many ports and transit hubs for the grain trade and grain production facilities."

Voice over: "But there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "By 2023 the economy shows signs of recovery. Inflation is declining and unemployment is declining, GDP is projected to grow about two or three percent."

Voice over: "Many commentators cite the Economic Recovery Act of 1948 as a useful precedent. Known as the 'Marshall Plan', this initiative rebuilt the European economies after the Second World War and involved approximately 13 billion dollars in funding at the time, or the equivalent of 173 billion dollars in today's money."

Professor Michael Clarke: "That's about a third of the 400 billion that the war has already cost, so the Marshall Plan is only a limited help in thinking about the scale of reconstruction. Ukraine is not as badly devastated as Germany and Japan and it won't be. On the other hand, the devastation to Ukraine is hitting a country that was in a less good situation before the war began. In Europe, we were bouncing back to what we had from the 1930's. We don't want the Ukrainians to bounce back to where they were in the year 2000, because that was a pretty poor economy. We want them to leap forward into a new type of economy."

Voice over: "So what are the steps for a successful recovery?"

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "The first stage is obviously to minimise damages, you know if we allow Russians to keep sending their missiles and attack drones into Ukraine, this is going to, you know, create more and more damages. The second stage is all about sort of emergency reconstruction, think about fixing critical infrastructure, bridges, power lines, restoring electricity, worker supply and so on. And then the later stage is going to take a really long time - this is about, you know, fixing homes, fixing factories."

Voice over: "Although the costs of rebuilding are extensive, the opportunities for improvements are huge."

Professor Michael Clarke: "It's the biggest land area in Europe, apart from Russia itself. 44 million people puts it on a par with the 'Big Four' - Britain, Germany, France and Italy. So it would be a fifth member of those, the big nations of Europe, if it modernises."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "The opportunities here are endless. We can focus on health care, infrastructure... Ukraine wants to be a part of the European Union and a part of NATO, and NATO is going to be sort of an ultimate deterrent from Russian aggression in the future."

Professor Michael Clarke: "If it's successful, a post-war, modernised Ukraine will be a big agricultural producer. It's still one of the big agricultural producers of the world."

Voice over: "They possess 30% of the world's richest, black soil, they have been dubbed the 'Bread Basket of Europe', producing 50% of the world's sunflower oil, 10% of all wheat and 15% percent of all corn."

Professor Michael Clarke: "Ukraine may be the 'test bed' for sustainable green energy and it will be an economy of entrepreneurship. They've shown during the war their ability to re-purpose weapon systems and build sophisticated ones. There's a bright future. Ukraine will be a very fashionable country in Europe because the war has put it on everyone's consciousness."

Voice over: "But all this reconstruction and modernisation comes with a high price tag."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "The European Union is going to pledge, or has pledged, 50 billion euros over four years. No, it's not going to be enough. But, you know, my hope is that this kind of funding will have a multiplier effect."

Professor Michael Clarke: "If people are optimistic about the future of Ukraine, they will invest. The danger is that Western enthusiasm will begin to wane as well. It's very important that the Ukrainians are able to reach a successful military outcome and then Western countries will feel more confident that they're backing a winner. The EU pledged a lot of aid and has only delivered about half of it. They need to make sure that they deliver on those pledges to increase that sense of optimism."

Voice over: "Funding will likely come from a mixture of contributors but mainly from private sources. Western companies are already eager to invest in the rebuilding of Ukraine, as the project, although risky, offers high economic potential. From Latvian roofing companies and Austrian Timber producers, to concrete makers in Germany, thousands of global businesses are vying to be part of a multi-billion dollar gold rush opportunity, or what some are calling the 'world's largest construction site'."

Professor Michael Clarke: "Ukraine needs to do two main things in order to attract Western Capital, which it will want to do. It's got to show that it's on top of the endemic corruption problem. Nobody wants to invest in an economy that is corrupt, because profits just disappear in protection rackets or unfair competition and the second thing that they need to do - they need a secure banking system and secure currency so that they can actually trade internally as well as trade in, presumably, dollars and euros."

Voice over: "The other option could unwittingly come from Russia itself. Russia began this war with approximately 600 billion dollars in assets stockpiled in an attempt to withstand Western sanctions, but unfortunately for Putin, more than half of it would be frozen in western banks - confiscated until Moscow agrees to pay for the damage it has inflicted. So the obvious question is, why can't we use that money to rebuild Ukraine?"

Professor Michael Clarke: "That's all very well but freezing assets is fine, seizing assets is theft. And that creates big legal precedence. Having said that, there are all sorts of ways to try to work around this to get some of that 300 billions worth of Russian assets to work for Ukraine."

Professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko: "In my opinion, there is really no question, we should seize the Russian money and give it to Ukraine. If a country inflicts so much damage to another country, somebody has to be responsible. Iraq invaded Kuwait in the 90's and then Iraq paid over 50 billion dollars to Kuwait for damages. The US Government seized assets of Nazi Germany and militaristic Japan during World War II. So it has been done in the past, it can be done again."

Voice over: "In fact, the U.S have recently announced that four or five million dollars of frozen assets from Russian oligarchs will now be given to Ukraine. Raising enough capital to rebuild Ukraine, although challenging, will be crucial to the country's future development and prosperity. Putin invaded with the intention of dismantling the Ukrainian state but some believe his invasive actions have had the opposite effect."

Professor Michael Clarke: "The war has galvanised a sense of Ukrainian patriotism, a sense of commitment to the country and that is worth its weight in gold when it comes to economic development."

Voice over: "Ukraine's resilient population have found ways to survive and rebuild under very challenging circumstances. If they receive the help they need, this tenacity, innovative thinking and solidarity could ensure that Ukraine emerges triumphant and transformed."

Related content

Ukraine flag

War in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has shocked the world. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 marked a significant escalation point in the Russo-Ukrainian War, which first began in 2014. Find out more about the Ukraine war and how the conflict is being fought in our video series. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin superimposed into the dock at the Nuremberg Trials.
©, CC BY SA 4.0 /public domain
Contemporary conflict

Will Putin face justice for his alleged war crimes in Ukraine?

Ukraine is a nation that understands the suffering of war. In 2023, Vladimir Putin was indicted by the international criminal court for war crimes. But he is unlikely to face a Nuremberg of his own. To understand why we need to take a look at the history of international justice and the uncertain future it faces.

Image of Russian President Vladimir Putin overlaid over a second image showing a map of Ukraine
© under Creative Commons 4.0

Russian invasion of Ukraine: How Putin lost in 10 days

It’s been over a year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A year of pain, destruction and bloodshed – Hundreds of thousands killed and millions more displaced from their homes. But it wasn’t supposed to be like this. So what went wrong? Why did his plan fail? And how close did he come to succeeding?

Russian aircraft
© Russian Defence Ministry Press Service
Contemporary conflict

What happened to the air war in Ukraine?

In this video, we look at how Ukraine's air defences have created a denial of air space, and the history of surface to air missile systems, which has led to a lot of the SAMS being used in the war in Ukraine dating back to the Soviet era.

A Ukrainian solider firing an NLAW from the hatch of an armoured vehicle.
© Military Television of Ukraine licensed under Creative Commons 4.0.
Contemporary conflict

Why have Ukrainian ATGMs destroyed so many Russian tanks?

Anti-Tank Guided Missiles or ATGMs have become a defining symbol of the Ukrainian fight against Russian invasion. They have destroyed countless armoured vehicles and provided endless material for viral social media clips. But why have ATGMs been so effective in the war so far, and could that be about the change?

Ukrainian map positioned next to Russian Army vehicle for teaser on: Why was Crimea taken so easily?
© Ilya Varlamov

Why was Crimea taken so easily? Nine years in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine began nine years before Russia's full scale invasion in 2022. In late February 2014, armed soldiers in uniforms without insignia began to occupy Crimea. So what led to the annexation of Crimea in 2014? And why does the Crimean Peninsula continue to be a crucial sticking point in negotiations in 2023? 

A Ukrainian artillery gun firing.
© Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, CC BY-SA 2.0
Contemporary conflict

Why is the war in Ukraine so deadly?

The scale of the war in Ukraine is staggering and has shocked the world. Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 marked a significant escalation point in the Russo-Ukrainian War, which first began in 2014. Brandon Mitchell and Iryna Knyzhnyk are volunteer medics from the Ukrainian Hospitallers Medical Battalion, which provide life-saving medical assistance and evacuation on the front lines of Ukraine. They are developing strategies to adapt and tackle the issues they face.