Ukraine will need $1.79bn to restore its telecom sector after the war, UN says

Russia has been accused of “destroying completely or seizing” telecoms networks in parts of Ukraine by a recent UN agency report.

Ukraine will need to invest a minimum of $1.79bn (£148bn) to restore its telecommunications sector to pre-war levels, the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has determined.

The agency was commissioned in April to conduct a damage assessment of the destruction of Ukraine’s communication networks as a result of Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country. 

The long-anticipated report has found that there was considerable damage and destruction to communications infrastructure in more than 10 out of 24 regions of Ukraine over the first six months of the conflict. 

It also alleged that Russia had “destroyed completely or seized” networks in parts of the country

“Since the beginning of military attacks, with the purpose of using the facilities in its interests and for its own needs, the aggressor either destroyed completely or seized the regular operation of public and private terrestrial telecommunication and critical infrastructure in the temporarily occupied and war-affected territories of Ukraine,” the report said.

In the document, the agency states it found evidence that Moscow unilaterally switched the Ukrainian dialling codes fixed by ITU to Russian ones. It also identified at least 1,123 cyber attacks against Ukraine between February and August 2022. 

An official with the Russian diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the report’s allegations, saying they were designed to divert attention from unspecified “atrocities” committed by Ukraine on Russian-occupied territory.

Ukraine has had a long history of facing cyber attacks on its critical infrastructure from Russia, despite the latter repeatedly denying any involvement. Since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine has been forced to reckon with repeated attacks on its telecommunication systemspower grid and airports.

During the conflict, Ukraine’s military forces have been relying on SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network for crucial battlefield communications. 

Despite its findings, the publication of the ITU report and the evidence it found has been postponed on several occasions, prompting frustration from EU diplomats, Reuters has reported. 

In a letter seen by the news agency, the EU wrote to then ITU secretary-general, China’s Houlin Zhao, in September calling for the release of the report. Zhao responded a few days later to say the damage assessment was still underway.

The ITU has not publicly commented on the report. Asked about the gap between the reporting period and the report’s publication, ITU told Reuters the report was published “after it was judged complete by the management.”

ITU added that the outcomes of its assessment would help mobilise technical assistance for Ukraine.

In September, the United Nations made efforts to ensure some level of cooperation between Russia and Ukraine in order to establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Shortly after, Ukraine and the UK agreed on a new Digital Trade Agreement (DTA) that will allow Ukraine access to UK financial services as it seeks to rebuild its economy following Russia’s illegal invasion.

Earlier in the year, the UK government revealed it has been supporting Ukraine’s cyber-security efforts against Russia with a £6.35m package designed to protect some of its critical national infrastructure.

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