How to Ensure that Russia Pays Reparations to Ukraine

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

The discussion of how to secure reparations from Russia once the war has ended is ongoing.

In their article Forcing Russia to Pay: What Ukraine and the Allies Must Do to Launch the Reparations Mechanism, Olena Perepylynska and Serhiy Uvarov of the INTEGRITES law firm explain who will receive the reparations, from which sources, and which countries can help launch the process.

The harm that Russia and its cronies cause is multifaceted. They ruin civilian houses, state property, and infrastructure. Because of their actions, many private businesses have been destroyed, looted, or are simply going bankrupt because it is virtually impossible to work since the fields are being mined and the ports continue to be blocked. Furthermore, the war is affecting the lives and health of thousands of Ukrainians, polluting the environment, and enabling large-scale deportation.

Reparations must, therefore, cover all these aspects.

There are two approaches to lodging compensation demands – centralized (when the state demands compensation for all the harm caused on its territory) and decentralized (when each or some of the victims single-handedly try to get the compensation).

Examples of the centralized approach include the post-World War II reparation agreement, as well as the recent decision of the International UN Court in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo against Uganda.

Meanwhile, the decentralized instances feature a Kuwait-Iraq commission for reimbursing losses, which reviewed individual reimbursement applications as a result of Iraq’s invasion of the country.

The "reparation fund" will most likely be made of Russia’s assets abroad, including the $600 billion reserves of the Russian Central Bank, half of which are frozen because of the introduced sanctions. Sanctioned legal entities and individuals who have connections with Putin’s regime or Russia’s war in Ukraine will most likely end up contributing as well.

Although Ukrainian officials have made several big statements, saying that these assets will be used for reparational purposes, for the time being, it’s impossible to do so.

The sovereign assets are protected by immunity while the non-sovereign ones officially belong to the sanctioned individuals. There are no ready-made grounds to confiscate or transfer them to anyone. To do this, it is necessary to create new national or international mechanisms.

Several states, for instance, Canada and the U.S., are already working on legislation that would enable the creation of such a mechanism. If adopted, this other countries might soon start doing the same.

Such a wave could significantly impact the sources as well as the fund’s pool for Ukraine in the future.  It will also reinvent the international approach to the confiscation of private property belonging to people who are part of Putin’s criminal regime.

To find out more about the decentralized vs. centralized approach to reparations as well as legislation in the U.S. and Canada, read the Forcing Russia to Pay: What Ukraine and the Allies Must Do to Launch the Reparations Mechanism article in Ukrainian.

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