Ukraine war: EU proposes UN-backed specialised court to probe alleged Russian war crimes

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP, Reuters
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the European Parliament in Brussels.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the European Parliament in Brussels.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File

The European Union says it will work to set up a UN-backed specialised court to investigate possible war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated on Wednesday that the bloc would work with the international community to get “the broadest international support possible" for the tribunal.

The EU would also continue to support the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC), she added in a video on Twitter.

Ukraine has been pushing for the creation of a special court to prosecute Russian military and political leaders over the war and the EU proposal was welcomed by the Ukrainian president's chief of staff.

On Tuesday, G7 justice ministers also agreed to set up a network to coordinate investigations into war crimes in Ukraine.

Russian forces have been accused of various war crimes in Ukraine since invading on February 24. Moscow has always denied the allegations.

The Hague-based ICC has already launched probes into the mass killing of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and the bombing of a theatre in Mariupol, but it does not have the authority to prosecute.

A special tribunal proposed by the EU is most likely to operate under Ukrainian law and be staffed by international prosecutors and judges.

But critics have argued that any UN-backed specialised court would be vetoed by Russia, a UN member.

The Kremlin has dismissed the EU proposal and says any such body would have "no legitimacy" and be unacceptable to Moscow.

Von der Leyen also stated that the EU wants to use Russian assets frozen under sanctions to help rebuild Ukraine.

"Russia and its oligarchs have to compensate Ukraine for the damage and cover the costs for rebuilding the country," she said.

Von der Leyen said around €300 billion of the Russian central bank reserves has been immobilised, along with €19 billion of Russian oligarchs' money. The damage to Ukraine is estimated at around €600 billion.

“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, these funds should be used so that Russia pays full compensation for the damages caused to Ukraine."

The EU said the restrictions on Russian assets could be lifted if a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia settled the question of damages reparation.