© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Iceland’s flag flies at Thingvellir National Park, Iceland September 16, 2019. Picture taken September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
By Andreas Rinke and Michel Rose
REYKJAVIK (Reuters) -Ways to hold Russia to account for its war against Ukraine, including keeping a tally of losses and damage inflicted by Moscow’s forces, were the focus of talks as European leaders met in Iceland on Tuesday for a two-day summit.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are among the leaders who are underscoring their support for Ukraine in a
rare meeting of the Council of Europe (CoE) rights body.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to address the gathering remotely following his tour of European capitals to secure more weapons and aid prior to an anticipated counteroffensive to push back Russian forces.
“A big topic will be the accountability of Russia for the crime of aggression it is constantly committing by waging war in Ukraine,” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.
The leaders are expected to approve a new Register of Damages, a mechanism to record and document evidence and claims of damage, loss or injury incurred as a result of the Russian invasion.
Russia has denied deliberately targeting civilians in bombing Ukrainian cities, although dozens of town and cities have been laid to waste by its air strikes and artillery since the invasion began in February last year.
Macron’s office said the council is looking at how the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) could help meet the needs of struggling Ukrainians.
Ahead of the leaders’ arrival, several Icelandic public institutions and private sector websites, including the parliament, government and supreme court, were briefly hit by cyber attacks.
The pro-Russian hacker group NoName057 claimed responsibility for the attacks in a post on Telegram, mentioning specifically the Council of Europe meeting and Zelenskiy’s scheduled speech.
An Icelandic police spokesperson said they did not affect the council meeting.
RESPECTING THE RULES
It is only the fourth summit of the 46-member Council of Europe since it was founded after World War Two.
Its democratic values are upheld by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, where citizens can take governments to court in case of human rights violations.
Russia’s membership was suspended the day after it invaded Ukraine. Moscow then left the body hours before a vote to expel it.
Turkey, which is in the middle of a presidential election fought by President Tayyip Erdogan, faces removal from the CoE after it failed to implement a 2019 court ruling to release jailed businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.
The Icelandic organisers said that as well as showing support for Ukraine through “concrete measures”, the meeting will also boost initiatives to address emerging threats to democracy, from climate change to artificial intelligence.
Meanwhile, Sunak will use the meeting to urge other leaders to stop what he called “the humanitarian disaster caused by illegal immigration,” his office said.
The British prime minister will make the case for reforming the European Court of Human Rights’ power to block British migrant deportation flights to Rwanda – plans that have been criticised by opponents, charities and religious leaders as inhumane.