The 46-nation Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organization, opened its first ‘heads of state summit’ in 18 years yesterday in Iceland and committed to an international register of damages caused to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion – damages that may cost $250 billion over five years to recover from.

In a speech at the opening of the summit, France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced the establishment of the register and said that “the Council is once again at the head of the side of the victims of aggression.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his own video address from Kyiv told European leaders, that “there will be no reliable peace without justice.”

Zelensky had already met with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the UK earlier in the week during visits to secure further military aid and build support for a ‘coalition of air defense,’ which he again raised with his audience in Reykjavik.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the register as “an enormously important judicial element… to give justice to the victims.”

“We make the first real step on our path to a solution about how to compensate for these atrocities and damages which Russia brings to Ukraine,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who is leading Ukraine’s delegation to the Council summit, said in response to the announcement.

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 “This is only the first step. The creation of a compensation mechanism is ahead,” Shmyhal added.

“And, eventually, there should be a tribunal for the crime of Russian aggression.”

The register of damage from Russian aggression will operate from the Netherlands. It will accept evidence of damages and claims for compensation for damage or injury.

The register will be open to individuals and legal entities, as well as the Ukrainian state, including regional and local authorities, and state-owned or state-controlled enterprises.

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According to Ukraiinska Pravda, Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice of Ukraine has previously said such a register of damage is an “integral part of the mechanism for compensation for damage caused by Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine.”

In his address, the French leader also called on the Council of Europe to facilitate the creation of one hundred walk-in mental health centres in Ukraine. He said the Council’s development bank should mobilize funds to build the centers because “among the population there are so many traumas” from almost 15 months of war and that “we have to center on this within the framework of reconstruction.”

In her address to the summit, Von der Leyen emphasised that the victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine did not appear only after the full-scale invasion, but also as a result of Russian aggression starting from the Maidan revolution.

“It started with the first victims shot on Maidan... It started with the Russian invasion of Crimea and Donbas,” the EC President said.

Von der Leyen also emphasised that the international community must listen to Ukraine's opinion about peace and reconstruction efforts, including supporting the ‘Zelensky 10-Point Peace Formula.’

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“We will not decide anything about Ukraine without Ukraine. That is why we fully support the Ukrainian peace formula,” she said.

On the same day the summit focussed on developing the damages register, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) released a report that shows Ukraine needs extra investment of around $50 billion a year to recover over five years from Russia’s war.

The report by Ukraine’s largest institutional investor says that only some 30 percent of economies have achieved their pre-war trend level of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita within five years.

For Ukraine to recover within five years, the EBRD, which invested $3 billion in 2022 and 2023, believes that its economy would need to grow by 14 percent a year throughout that period and this requires high ratios of investment to GDP.

In March 2023, a joint assessment by the Government of Ukraine, the World Bank Group, the European Commission, and the United Nations estimated that the cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine is $411 billion over ten years.

In Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine, as noted by AP, statements at the summit brought no immediate relief from Moscow’s military might, as Russia launched an intense air attack on the capital using a combination of drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

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