Ukraine intends to sign a "full range" of agreements with Japan at a reconstruction conference in Tokyo later this month to spur investment and boost economic cooperation between the countries, its Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said recently.

Shmyhal is set to lead his country's delegation at the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction on Feb. 19 where discussions will take place on rebuilding the country from the war damage sustained since Russia's February 2022 invasion.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. (Kyodo)

In the exclusive interview with Kyodo News in Kyiv on Thursday, the prime minister said his country is "interested in comprehensive cooperation with Japanese business," adding he sees "huge potential" for the relationship between Japanese companies and Ukraine.

He singled out the energy, infrastructure, agriculture, engineering, IT, and security and defense sectors as areas where Japanese firms can play a "huge role in assisting the recovery" which the World Bank estimated last March will cost $411 billion over the next decade.

Specifically, Shmyhal expressed hope that major Japanese automakers will share their engineering expertise with Ukrainian businesses and other companies will cooperate in fertilizer production and extraction and processing of critical raw materials such as lithium.

Additionally, Shmyhal said he sees potential for improved cooperation with Japan on nuclear power as Ukraine aims to have at least four new nuclear reactors operating by 2033, with it also aiming to improve the productivity of its existing plants.

Of Ukraine's 15 nuclear reactors, six at its Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station are currently under Russian control, Shmyhal said.

Japan and Ukraine are expected to sign a bilateral memorandum at the conference, which Shmyhal said is the "biggest signal" they can give to companies in both countries that "they can safely and successfully invest in Ukraine."

Around 200 major Japanese and Ukrainian firms are expected to join the meeting. A number of other memorandums and agreements are also in the pipeline, with the premier saying, "The more, the better."

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal speaks in an interview at a government building in Kyiv on Feb. 8, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the Ukrainian prime minister's office)(Kyodo)

But with Ukraine relying heavily on foreign aid to continue fighting the war, concerns around corruption have been raised by its partners and are proving a barrier to the country receiving support.

Shmyhal said Kyiv is committed to rooting out misuse of funds and that "fighting without compromising on the battlefield is the same as fighting corruption without compromising."

He added that Ukraine's partners have noted "sufficient progress" in tackling the issue and pointed out its ongoing efforts to digitalize its public services as having helped to make procurement transparent.

Amid signs of Ukraine fatigue in the United States and European countries, opposition from U.S. Republican Party lawmakers ahead of the country's Nov. presidential election has led to delays in the government reaching a deal for the latest Ukraine funding package.

But Shmyhal stressed he remains "pretty optimistic" on the matter. "We believe our American allies will find a way to fund us, after all," he said.

A former deputy prime minister and regional lawmaker, Shmyhal has served as Ukraine's prime minister since March 2020.

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