'Prosecute barbarians': Belgium to send experts to investigate war crimes in Ukraine

'Prosecute barbarians': Belgium to send experts to investigate war crimes in Ukraine
Kharkiv at the start of the war. Credit: Belga

Belgium is seeking to send experts to Ukraine to analyse reported war crimes committed by Russia on the ground, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Tuesday evening.

At the Thalassa Summit in Ghent, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reflected on the situation in the war-torn country and efforts made by EU countries. Both Prime Ministers were meeting at Thalassa, a government summit between Belgium and the Netherlands on how they can work closely together on security, sustainability and cross-border cooperation.

"Today's insane aggression by Russia in the Donbas region is another low-point in Europe, comparable to the darkest pages of Europe's history," De Croo said, adding that there "can be no impunity for war crimes," of which Russia has repeatedly denied any allegation.

He stated that Belgium is investigating the possibility of sending such forensic experts to Ukraine. "This is the first step to make sure that the barbarians who are doing this will be prosecuted," De Croo said.

Referring to the testimonies shared of women and children in Ukraine being raped by Russian soldiers, De Croo stressed that both the Netherlands and Belgium will make sure "everything is documented" so that a prosecution can take place.

De Croo added that this is also the reason why both countries are supporting the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its investigation into these acts and why they support the United Nations Human Rights Council's Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, launched at the start of March.

EU fund for Ukraine's reconstruction

On Tuesday, it was also revealed that the European Commission is looking to pay for the bulk of the reconstruction costs in Ukraine and that it is working to set up a fund for this purpose, as was reported by Bloomberg on the basis of sources around the Commission. This was confirmed by De Croo during the press conference.

"That exact decision has been taken. As the EU, we are funding and investing in infrastructure in what I would call our backyard, and it is not anything new," he said. De Croo added that he hoped that, sooner rather than later, the reconstruction of Ukraine can begin.

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In light of questions regarding a possible membership to the EU, De Croo stressed that helping fund this reconstruction is "our biggest lever to really pull them towards the West, and really respond to that aspiration to be part of a free society and democracy where differences of opinion are possible."

Rutte added that this could be used to "help in the fight against corruption, to provide more freedom of the press, to strengthen the rule of law."

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