Estonia cannot rebuild Ukraine by itself, but it can set an example for other countries carrying out smaller-scale restoration works, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Riina Sikkut (SDE) said after visiting the war-torn country.
Earlier this year it was announced Estonia will help rebuild the Zhytomyr region in northeastern Ukraine. The two regions had links before the war, and Minster of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) laid the cornerstone of a new kindergarten this summer.
A fleet of new buses will arrive in the coming months and a new bridge will be constructed with Estonia's help.
Sikkut told Wednesday's "Ringvaade" after a visit to the region, that the war has affected everyone in Ukraine but society continues to function.
"The president of the Chamber of Commerce there said that Ukrainians are a self-starting nation, so their social structures work even during the war, but sometimes they need support," the minister said.
"When buses are sent to the frontline, children still have to get to school somehow. We handed over three buses on the spot from the Estonian side, nine are on their way. There will be more of them in the future. Small steps like this, which enable people there to improve their daily lives, need to be done all the time," she explained.
Sikkut said the country currently needs help preparing for winter.
"Winter is coming, we know very well what that means. For homes to be heated, it is inevitably necessary to have windows. At the same time, children are still going to school and kindergarten and people go to work if they can, so likewise all kinds of social institutions and workplaces must be able to deal with winter conditions," she said.
Sikkut said Estonia can set an example in some areas because its politicians and entrepreneurs dare to return to and help the country when many others don't.
Today we with Estonian Transport Administration & @EconMinEstonia said bon voyageto 3⃣ buses that began their journey to Zhytomyr in #Ukraine. Next week 9⃣ more will go to Zhytomyr in order to help restore their transport services that have perished in Russia's brutal war. pic.twitter.com/oW9jrWQUo0— Estonian MFA | #StandWithUkraine (@MFAestonia) September 24, 2022
"But you have to show it, and in Estonia it is possible to show that, yes, you can come to this place, you can meet with local people, you can understand their needs, you can see the destruction with your own eyes, you can help to repair, rebuild, reconstruct windows, kindergartens, bridges," the minister said.
"It is important for the Ukrainians that we are there — and to create confidence that it can be done, so that other countries with more resources also come."
Priit Luman, board member of construction company Nordecon, visited Zhytomyr region with Sikkut to assess the possibilities for rebuilding. He said, while workers and machines are needed, Ukrainians have already begun the work themselves.
"Recovery will take years, but it would be great if we could get the bridge and the kindergarten up and running and show the world it's possible," he said.
Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright