As they gathered in Iceland for a two-day summit, European leaders vowed to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine and presented a system to track the casualties and damage caused by Moscow’s army.
In a gathering of the Council of Europe (CoE) rights body in Reykjavik, leaders like the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted their support for Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, joined them via video link after touring major cities in Europe to gather more supplies and weapons ahead of an anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Zelenskiy seized the chance to draw attention to Kyiv’s assertions that it had successfully shot down Russian hypersonic missiles with the aid of recently installed Western defenses. He told the gathering that it proved how strong the nation could be when working together.
“A year ago, we were not able to shoot down most of the terrorists’ missiles, especially ballistic ones. And I am asking one thing now. If we are able to do this, is there anything we can’t do?”Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine President
Even though scores of towns and cities have been destroyed by Russian airstrikes and artillery since the invasion started in February of last year, Russia has consistently denied intentionally hitting civilian targets in Ukrainian communities.
A new Register of Damages, a method to record and document evidence and claims of damage, loss, or injury allegedly sustained as a result of the Russian invasion, was introduced at the Reykjavik meeting.
The meeting also aimed to discuss other issues, such as the suffering of the thousands of Ukrainian children who have been illegally deported to Russia or Russian-occupied territory since the war began. Kyiv and its allies have condemned these deportations.
“The moment to push back is now. Democracies like ours must build resilience, so that we can out-cooperate and outcompete those who drive instability. We will hold Russia accountable for the horrendous war crimes that have been committed and we must also learn the lessons of this war by being prepared to confront threats to our societies before they become too big to deal with.”Rishi Sunak, UK Prime Minister
Echoing those remarks, Scholz said the council was important “to punish the war crimes of the Russian occupiers and to demand accountability for the enormous damage that Russia inflicts on Ukraine day after day.”
According to Macron’s office, the council is considering how the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) could assist in addressing the needs of Ukrainians who are struggling.
Several Icelandic public institutions and business sector websites, including the parliament, government, and supreme court, were temporarily targeted by cyberattacks before the arrival of the leaders.
In a statement on Telegram, the pro-Russian hacking collective NoName057 claimed responsibility for the attacks, highlighting, in particular, the Council of Europe gathering and Zelenskyy’s address.
The 46-member Council of Europe has only had four summits total since it was established following World War Two.
The European Court of Human Rights, which has its headquarters in Strasbourg and allows citizens to sue governments for infringement of human rights, upholds its democratic principles.
The day after Russia invaded Ukraine, its membership was suspended. Then, hours before a vote to expel it, Moscow quit the organization.
After failing to carry out a 2019 court decision to free imprisoned businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, Turkey now risks being expelled from the CoE.
At the summit, Sunak also spoke with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. According to a readout from Sunak’s office, the leaders decided to increase immigration cooperation by creating a new cooperative agreement between British authorities and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
Sunak will also argue for changes to the European Court of Human Rights authority to halt flights from the United Kingdom carrying illegal immigrants to Rwanda, which has been criticized as callous by opponents, charities, and religious leaders.