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Centre investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine to be set up in July

Ukrainian Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin (L) and European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in Brussels, Feb 17, 2023.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin (L) and European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in Brussels, Feb 17, 2023. Copyright Lukasz Kobus/ EU
Copyright Lukasz Kobus/ EU
By Isabel da Silva
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The new hub will be based in the Dutch city of the Hague.

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A new international centre to investigate crimes of aggression against Ukraine by Russia will be set up in July, according to the European Commissioner for Justice.

Didier Reynders said on Friday the new investigative hub will be based in the Hague, in the Netherlands, and is seen as the first step towards the creation of a special tribunal.

The announcement came after a meeting in Brussels between the Justice Commissioner and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Andriy Kostin.

"The centre will have the objective to preserve and store evidence for future trials," Reynders said.

"Of course, the goal is to find the jurisdiction - a special tribunal as asked by Ukraine - or another form of tribunal. We are very open to see how it is possible to work on this."

The two officials joined the first meeting of the ‘Freeze and Seize' Task Force that is working on the €21.5 billion worth of private assets confiscated from Russian and Belarussian oligarchs.

There are also around €300 billion of Russian Central Bank assets frozen by the EU and G7 countries.

A discussion is ongoing over how to legally use that money in the reconstruction of Ukraine and victim compensation.

One option is to invest the assets in a way that bring proceeds to be used in Ukraine, leaving the original capital intact.

According to Kostin, using the frozen Russian money is the best way forward.

"The sovereign assets of Russia are the best and fairest way to compensate the damage caused by Russian aggression because it is the Russian state and all state authorities of the Russian federation who committed the act of agression," the Ukrainian Prosecutor General said.

Brussels is also working on a new directive to extend the list of European crimes by adding a new criminal offence for those seeking to circumvent the sanctions against Russia, which would alow EU goverments to confiscate assets of companies and individuals that do not respect the restrictions.

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