1 of 4 | Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to conference participants via video link. Photo courtesy of Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Flickr
July 14 (UPI) -- More than 40 nations agreed Thursday to closely collaborate on investigations into Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine as such allegations mount against the Kremlin.
The judicial authorities of 45 nations signed the declaration during the Ukraine Accountability Conference held at The Hague, committing them to creating a dialogue group to enhance collaboration among national, European and international war crimes investigations that have been spearheaded in the wake of Russia invading Ukraine in late February.
They also pledged to donate funds to the International Criminal Court and to Ukraine's prosecutor general's office, which have been leading investigations into alleged Russian war crimes.
"We have charted a renewed course for common action in relation to atrocity crimes that prioritizes dialogue across initiatives, promotes coherence and above all places the rights and experiences of victims at its center," ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan said in a statement following the completion of the conference.
"I believe that the work we do today can set a model for action that can be used to accelerate accountability efforts in all situations addressed by my office."
Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, igniting a bloody war that nears its 150th day. During that time, Russia has been repeatedly accused by entities and governments of committing various violations and abuses in Ukraine, including executing civilians in Bucha in March as well as targeting civilians and infrastructure in attacks.
A day before the conference, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the Kremlin of forcibly deporting up to 1.6 million Ukrainians to Russia's Far East in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe released a report Thursday examining international humanitarian law violations in Ukraine, documenting clear patterns of "serious violations" mostly attributable to Russian armed forces.
The report, he said in a statement, "documents evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rape, torture, executions, looting and forced transfer of civilians to Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and forced deportation to Russia itself."
In total, Ukraine's prosecutor-general's office has counted 23,143 alleged crimes of aggression and war crimes committed by Russia amid the war.
As the conference was underway, three Russian missiles struck the eastern Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, killing at least 23 people, including three children. Another 64 people were hospitalized, 34 in serious condition and five were listed as critical.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described those responsible "beasts" during the conference, and called for a special tribunal to try Russian aggression against Ukraine to ensure fair and lawful punishment for those who "started this history of disasters and tragedies, which has become the biggest war in Europe since World War II."
"Our efforts will be enough to record the crimes of Russian occupiers," he said. "However, those people whose decisions led to this array of crimes must not hide behind the so-called immunity of officials. The principle of inevitability of punishment must also apply to these people. And this can only be ensured by the Special Tribunal on Aggression against Ukraine."
During his opening remarks, Khan told conference participants that following the start of the war an unprecedented 43 nations had referred the situation to his office and that they on Thursday need to establish an "overarching strategy" on collaboration the purpose of which is to ensure that law fulfills its purpose.
"At a time like this, the law cannot be a spectator. The law cannot recline in comfort in the Hague or anywhere else for that matter when it's meant to protect and uphold certain principles that are essential for humanity. This is what we're trying to do. This is why you're all here and everybody has a part to play."