REPORTING. “People call us to tell their pain”: in Ukraine, a hotline dedicated to the compensation of victims of war crimes

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has been necessary to hire dozens of additional advisers to respond to calls received by the hotline of the legal assistance center run by Oleksandr Baranov in Kiev. “Our lawyers say that 50% of their work is psychology, because people call us to tell their pain, all the misfortunes that have happened to them”, he confides. Legal aid is a first step in enabling victims of Russian war crimes to launch claims for compensation.

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The files concern, for example, the reconstruction of a house destroyed by bombs. An administrative headache, explains Oleksandr Baranov: “Often the problem is that people have lost their title deeds. Some have lived their whole lives in their homes without any official document. So, to be compensated, they have to have one drawn up.” For the moment, the compensation procedures already in place are financed by the Ukrainian state.

More than 80,000 criminal proceedings

The challenge is to find mechanisms to compensate war victims with Russian money. Like the assets of the oligarchs linked to the Kremlin and seized in Europe for example. “All of this will take time because political decisions at the highest level are needed to create a foundation to compensate victims, says the director of the legal assistance center. And it is also necessary, on the ground, to organize the way in which people will be able to receive this money”.

The Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office has already opened more than 80,000 criminal proceedings for crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine in the past 14 months.

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