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Putin accountability panel focuses on concrete actions for International Criminal Court, using oligarch assets

The so-called “de-Putinfication” of Russia. Closure. Victory. All of these aims for Ukraine – and more – were discussed Easter Monday morning by a high-profile panel convened by the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights UK, and the United States Institute of Peace. The discussion, moderated by RFKHR President Kerry Kennedy, featured former First Lady of Ukraine, Kateryna Yushchenko. It also included former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, Yale Professor and former U.S. Department of State Adviser Harold Koh, former Ambassador William B. Taylor, Head of Programmes at the European Anti-Corruption Initiative to Ukraine and former Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia Eka Tkeshelashvili, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack, and Iryna Venediktova, Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, unable to attend due to a funeral, recorded a video message for the event.

The panel began with a grim assessment of the current situation, including the recent news that Russians are holding approximately 27,000 Ukrainians near the besieged city of Mariupol in “filtration camps.” The slaughter of innocent citizens, raping of Ukrainian women and devastation of homes, hospitals, churches and schools continues. During the panel Monday, missile strikes were reported in the western city of Lviv.

“Russia’s methods became more severe when it failed to achieve its objective to take Kyiv,” Vendiktova said.

While there are moving pieces of legislation in Congress to amend the United States’ war crimes act, much of the discussion centered upon how the international community can effectively work together to hold Vladimir Putin, Russian Oligarchs, as well as rank and file soldiers accountable for war crimes.

In particular, Koh encapsulated two concrete proposals panelists agreed could be particularly effective: The first included asking the Biden administration to send current and former Department of Justice prosecutors to the International Criminal Court in The Hague with the necessary resources to work on the issue.

Koh also called for securing an international fund that would collect seized Russian assets to be used for the civil reconstruction of Ukraine.

But for true accountability, Taylor said, “Ukraine must win this war. We need to provide Ukrainians with everything they need, weapons at all levels. That’s the only way.”

If there is any silver lining to the war, Yushchenko said, is that Ukrainians are buoyed by the support of the world. “In the past, Ukrainians have had to deal with wars, but we were always on our own. This is the first time in our history the world is aware and is reacting. This gives us hope, and determination,” she said.

Watch a video recording of the event here or listen to a podcast version here.