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Council of Europe summit in Iceland seeks to hold Russia to account for Ukraine war

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Leaders from across the continent were heading toward Iceland early Tuesday for a rare summit of the 46-nation Council of Europe that will once more step up support for member state Ukraine and condemn expelled Russia for inflicting war on its neighbor.

And after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stocked up on promises of military hardware throughout a long weekend of diplomatic hobnobbing with the continent’s major leaders, the two-day summit of Europe’s main human rights body will be centering on providing legal and judicial means to go after the Kremlin.

By Wednesday’s conclusion, leaders at the summit want to have the outlines of a system in place that will set up a register of all the damage already caused by Russian forces, so Moscow can be held liable for compensation to the victims later. They are hoping that the United States, which has observer status at the summit, will also back that initiative.

“The register is just one of a number of international initiatives set up to ensure accountability for the crimes inflicted in Ukraine,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The Council also wants to make sure that Russia can be held accountable for what it sees as a plethora of crimes committed during the invasion.

“I will very strongly support the creation of a dedicated tribunal to bring Russia’s crime of aggression to trial,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Plans for such a court in The Hague have yet to bear fruit.

In Kyiv, the words of support were no match for Moscow’s military might, as Russia launched an intense air attack on the capital using a combination of drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

In the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, diplomacy was seeking a counterweight, with keynote speeches by Sunak, von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

It was still unclear whether Zelenskyy, who was in Britain on Monday, was now heading home or was continuing on to Iceland. During a fruitful three-day tour through Europe, European leaders promised him an arsenal of missiles, tanks and drones to replenish Ukraine’s weapons supplies ahead of a long-anticipated spring offensive.

There will be no escaping the plight of Ukraine during the two-day summit of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe. Since its inception in 1949 it has been a guardian, with fluctuating success, of human rights, democracy and the rule of law on the continent. Rarely has the need been higher than in today’s world.

The summit will also want to focus on the plight of children that have been moved from Ukraine to Russia during the invasion. In March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine. Another official has also been indicted.

Since the start of the war, the Russians have been accused of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia or Russian-held territories to raise them as their own. Thousands of children have been seized from schools and orphanages during Russia’s occupation of eastern Ukraine and it is not known where they are now.


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