How the Register of Damage Caused by Russia's Aggression will work

Tuesday, 2 April 2024 — , Director of the International Register of Damage
Ukrainians whose apartments have been destroyed in the war should receive compensation from Russia. This photo shows an apartment block that was destroyed by Russian missile strikes being rebuilt in Zaporizhzhia. Photo: Photoshot/East News

Tens of thousands dead. Hundreds of thousands injured. Millions made homeless. US$486 billion needed for rebuilding. These terrifying numbers bring home the scale of the war's consequences for Ukraine and its people. But no statistic can convey the impact the war has had on the individuals and families whose destinies have changed forever.

International law has an unwavering rule: an aggressor state is obliged to compensate for all damage caused by its unlawful actions.

This means that Russia must compensate Ukraine and Ukrainians for the damage caused by the war. This rule does not, however, guarantee that the people affected by the war will feel that justice has been done or receive the compensation they deserve, especially given Russia’s disregard for international law.

What exactly should Russia pay for? How much? To whom? How? And when?

International law does not answer these questions, envisioning that states should resolve these complex issues themselves, reaching a strong and broad consensus on the details and instruments.

The Register of Damage for Ukraine is such a consensus. The initiative was founded with the support of 43 states and the European Union to build a mechanism that will address the consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its people. (It has been set up as an international organisation with the full name The Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.)

Today, just nine months after it was founded, the Register is ready to accept applications for compensation for damage caused by the war.

People often ask: what damage does the Register aim to document? The answer is very simple: all of it. All the damage inflicted by the aggressor country in Ukraine, starting from 24 February 2022.

And this isn't just about Ukrainians’ destroyed property. Will the Register record claims for loss of life? Yes. And injuries? Yes. Claims from people who have suffered torture, inhumane treatment or sexual violence? Absolutely. And what about those who were forced to leave their homes? Without a doubt. And abducted children? Definitely not forgotten. And the destruction of infrastructure? Of course. And business losses? Certainly. And environmental damage? That too.

But the Register will begin with claims for destroyed housing.

For some people, that might be windows that were blown out in the middle of winter, while for others, their house or apartment has been completely destroyed. Entire cities and villages have been levelled to the ground.

Starting Tuesday, 2 April, Ukrainians will be able to submit a claim to the Register for damage caused to their homes by the full-scale war since 24 February 2022, regardless of whereabouts in Ukraine their apartment or house is located – Lviv, Kyiv, Donetsk or Simferopol.

You don't need to go anywhere to submit a claim – just open the Diia app (Ukraine’s e-government app). It will show you the information and evidence already available in state registers and databases. You can add your documents, press a button – and your application is submitted.

The Register will be accessible to everyone, even people who don’t use Diia.

It will soon be possible to submit applications for other categories of losses.

The applications themselves, of course, are not the end of the story. The key step towards justice will be when people start receiving reparations and compensation, and for that to happen, the international compensation instrument must be activated.

But it's important to be honest. Receiving reparations will not be quick. The process will last years rather than weeks or months. We still need to create important components of the instrument that will help convert the claims submitted to the Register into decisions on the appropriate amount of compensation and actual payment.

But even the longest journey begins with the first step. From today, every Ukrainian affected has the opportunity to take that step by submitting an application to the Register. This isn’t just a path to compensation, but also a step towards the restoration of justice.

The Register of Damage for Ukraine which opened on 2 April is a big step forward, in a very practical sense, towards Russia paying for the destruction and pain it has caused.

The more people apply for compensation, the better other countries will understand what the aggressor has done – and the stronger our joint voice calling for justice to be done for every Ukrainian.

Markiian Kliuchkovskyi,

Executive Director of the International Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine

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