EU seeks specialized tribunal to investigate possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine – National

The European Union proposed on Wednesday to create a UN-backed specialized tribunal to investigate possible war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, and to use frozen Russian assets to rebuild the war-torn country.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video message that the EU will work with international partners to secure « the widest possible international support » for the tribunal, while continuing to support the work of the International Criminal Court.

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Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, his military forces have been accused of abuses ranging from killings in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha to deadly attacks on civilian facilities, including the March 16 bombing of a theater in Mariupol which an Associated Press investigation established likely killed nearly 600 people.

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Investigations into military crimes committed during the war in Ukraine are ongoing across Europe, and the Hague-based International Criminal Court has already launched investigations.

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska also demanded accountability for Ukrainian invaders as she addressed lawmakers in London.

“Victory is not the only thing we need. We need justice,” she said, comparing Russian war crimes to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

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She called on Britain to lead efforts to set up a criminal tribunal to prosecute senior Russian officials for the invasion, similar to the post-war Nuremberg trials against key Nazis.

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Von der Leyen added on Wednesday that the 27-nation bloc wanted to make Russia pay for the destruction it caused to neighboring Ukraine using Russian assets frozen under sanctions.

She estimated the damage caused to Ukraine at 600 billion euros.

« Russia and its oligarchs must compensate Ukraine for the damage and cover the costs of rebuilding the country, » von der Leyen said. « We have the means to make Russia pay. »

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Von der Leyen said €300 billion of Russian central bank reserves had been tied up and €19 billion of Russian oligarchs’ money had been frozen.

« In the short term, we could create with our partners a structure to manage these funds and invest them, » she said. « We would then use the proceeds for Ukraine, and once the sanctions are lifted, those funds should be used to have Russia pay for the full damage done to Ukraine. »

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The EU said the lifting of restrictions on Russian assets could be linked to the conclusion of a peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia that would settle the issue of compensation for damages.

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