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Ukrainians file online compensation claims as register opens of damage to homes caused by war

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A register for Ukrainians to seek compensation for damage to their homes as a result of Russia’s invasion opened Tuesday and more than 100 people filed online claims, ministers attending a conference on justice for Ukraine said.

“It’s a sign of how high the demand is, but it’s also a sign of how thirsty people are for justice,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters.

The Hague-based Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, also known as RD4U, was established by the Council of Europe last year.

The dozens of compensation applications filed Tuesday are the tip of an iceberg. The Council of Europe expects between 300,000 and 600,000 claims. RD4U aims to allow further claims soon, including those related to damage or destruction of Ukrainian critical infrastructure.

The register will not pay out any claims, but is a stepping stone toward an international compensation mechanism that has not yet been established.

As the conference opened with the devastating war sparked by Russia’s invasion in its third year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used a video message to urge delegates to continue efforts to tackle impunity for war crimes in order to “provide real strength to our common security — security from aggressions and terror.”

In a closing declaration, 44 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France, pledged to work toward establishing a special tribunal for the investigation and prosecution of the crime of aggression against Ukraine where Russian leaders could be prosecuted.

“We welcome significant progress made in this regard, and we encourage interested States and international organisations to strengthen their efforts to secure a sound legal basis and broad international support for the completion of this process,” the declaration said.

Talks have been going on for months on the form such a tribunal could take in order to ensure Russian leaders cannot claim immunity.

Kuleba said there were ways to move past the issue of immunity.

“These countries who put forward this reservation can simply withdraw. Second … this issue can be left to the tribunal itself – there is an international legal practice that the tribunal itself decides on the jurisdiction it possesses.”

The International Criminal Court does not currently have jurisdiction to prosecute the crime of aggression in the Russia-Ukraine war.

The ICC, however, has issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country’s commissioner for children’s rights charging them with personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine.

The court also has issued warrants for two senior Russian military officers for alleged responsibility for attacks on critical infrastructure in Ukraine.

“Let the real peace be restored faster. And let everyone who destroys peace be truly afraid of facing trial in The Hague,” Zelenskyy said in a video message.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Andriy Kostin, told the meeting that his country has identified 551 war crimes suspects, indicted 374 and has already prosecuted 104 people.

Opening the conference, Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said the devastating toll of Russian attacks underscored the need to support Ukraine.

“Because if we don’t, the country’s justice system will eventually collapse under the weight of these atrocities,” she said.

Associated Press