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Current affairs debate on escalation in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine

Damien Cottier (Switzerland, ALDE)

"The atrocities uncovered in the liberated Ukrainian territories unfortunately underline once again how crucial the fight against impunity is," declared Damien Cottier (Switzerland, ALDE), opening a current affairs debate in Reykjavik on escalation in the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

“The officials of one country who attack another must be tried by an ad hoc international tribunal, as our Assembly has already proposed. We must continue to promote its creation, including through the 4th Council of Europe Summit to be held here in May,” he added.

"Those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, or who attempt genocide, and those who ordered or tolerated these crimes as superiors, must be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court or by Ukrainian justice with the help of the Joint Investigations Team. Council of Europe states and our Organisation must provide the necessary support here, in particular by sending experts and by supporting investigations into sexual crimes," he said.

"Finally, we must work for Ukraine to be rebuilt. The principles established in Lugano and the work done in Berlin must guide us. Furthermore, the aggressor country should be held responsible and called upon to contribute to repairing the damage caused, as far as possible, obviously respecting the principles of the rule of law."

"PACE's Legal Affairs Committee is preparing a report on these issues to serve as the basis for an urgent debate in January. Perhaps more than ever, the values ​​upheld by the Council of Europe are essential for building the future of our continent on sound and lasting foundations," Mr Cottier concluded.

George Katrougalos (Greece, UEL) said the Council of Europe had reacted appropriately to Russia’s unprovoked aggression, as well as showing solidarity for the people of Ukraine, but cautioned against a return to a bipolar world after the end of the war. He lamented the “eclipse” of Europe during the conflict, and urged it to develop a diplomatic proposal for peace, in line with Europe’s core values, which respected Ukraine’s sovereign rights.

Frank Schwabe (Germany, SOC) reminded members of the death and suffering taking place in Ukraine right now. Russia was attempting to destroy civilian infrastructure, knowing what this meant, but it would not in the end be successful with its aggression, he said. The forthcoming Council of Europe summit was an opportunity to bring solutions, to stand with Ukraine, and to assist it in documenting war crimes as well as bringing those responsible to justice.

Ingjerd Schou (Norway, EPP/CD) said Ukraine was “fighting on the frontline of European democracy”. Ukrainians were standing up not only for their country, but for the fundamental values on which Europe is founded, she pointed out. She urged the Assembly and the Council of Europe to ensure that a Tribunal was created to hold the aggressor to account, and said the day for rebuilding Ukraine would come.

John Howell (United Kingdom, EC/DA) said he fully supported the Assembly’s stance on the war in Ukraine, adding that the country urgently needed more missile defence systems. He recalled that he was shortly to present a report on the effects of war on the environment, but it was already clear that there was very little law in this area. Human rights laws rightly protected human beings, but Ukraine’s environment had also been devastated by the war. There was a need for a new treaty to establish the crime of “ecocide”, he said.

Mariia Mezentseva (Ukraine, EPP/CD), head of the Ukrainian parliamentary delegation to PACE, paid tribute to PACE as “our strongest and most united ally on the battlefield of diplomacy”. She hailed the Assembly’s “straightforward support” for an ad hoc tribunal to try Russia’s aggression against Ukraine: “I cannot believe what I am hearing on this. I am sure that it will be established, and that we as politicians will go down in the history books for this.” There was no doubt that Russia had a terrorist regime, and had attempted genocide in her country. “No heating and no light is not a problem,” she concluded, “but burying my friends is. I have no doubt we will win this war together, and it will come soon.”