Ukrainian War-Damages Registry Approved at Reykjavík Summit

Reykjavík Summit 2023

During the Reykjavík Summit of the Council of Europe this morning, European leaders signed an agreement to establish a “Register of Damage” for the war in Ukraine. PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir has stated that it is important that Russia is held to account for its war of aggression in Ukraine, Mbl.is reports.

43 countries already signed the agreement

This morning, European leaders approved a so-called “Register of Damage” at the Reykjavík Summit of the European Council. As noted by Mbl.is, it is assumed that the registry, designed to hold Moscow to account, will be operational for three years, recording data and claims due to damages and losses incurred by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Mbl.is reports that a total of 43 countries, alongside the European Union, have already signed, or announced their intention to sign, an agreement to the establishment of the registry. Several countries have, however, dropped out: among them Turkey and Hungary – both of whom are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Armenia, Azerbaijan, Serbia, and Bosnia have announced plans to refrain from signing the agreement.

Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the European Council, was quoted by Deutsche Welle (DW) as stating that the creation of the registry was “a first, necessary, urgent step” ensuring “justice that is centred on the victims” of the war.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that support and solidarity with Ukraine had been a priority during Iceland’s presidency of the Council of Europe and that it was important that the outcome of the summit in Reykjavík was that Russia was held responsible for its attack in Ukraine in a broad way. The Council of Europe should play an important role in this regard.

Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, was also present at the signing of the agreement; the Council of Europe’s Register of Damage will be based in the Hague and will also operate a branch in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal welcomed the registry: “We are grateful to the Council of Europe and all the participating countries for providing such support from the highest level of government. We invite other countries from all over the world to join the registry to express their support for the importance of Russian responsibility for its war against Ukraine,” Mbl.is notes.

As noted by DW, the United States, who attended the summit as an observer; Canada; and Japan have also voiced their support for the creation of the register.

Russian Trawler Suspected of Espionage

capelin loðna fishing

At least one of the 50 Russian ships suspected of conducting espionage in the legal waters of the Nordic countries is believed to have also operated in Iceland, reports Morgunblaðið.

A team of journalists from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark have recently produced a documentary which proves the involvement of Russian fishing vessels in acts of espionage carried out in the territorial waters of the Scandinavian nations. According to the latest information, one of the ships in question, Melkart 5, also operated in Icelandic waters.

Melkart 5 is suspected of being connected to a damaged underwater cable between Norway and Svalbard. It has also been shown to carry specialized military communications equipment.

The trawler, operated by Murman Seafood, has a history of operating in Iceland. Melkart 5 visited the Akureyri drydock in 2020, when it was painted, repaired, and its main engine replaced. The latest work by the investigative team of journalists alleges that Melkart 5 dragged a trawl door along the seabed to damage the underwater cable. Due to unclear legislation, the case was dropped. The ship’s management denies all accusations.

Some 50 Rusian ships are suspected of such espionage actions, but the full list has not been published.

In February of last year, representatives of the Norwegian Coast Guard, the police, and the customs authorities also went on board the Russian yacht Ragnar while it was docked in Northern Norway. Owned by Vladimir Strzhalkovski, a former KGB official and acquaintance of President Putin, the vessel was equipped with a helipad, ice-breaker hull, and docking facilities for a small reconnaissance submarine. Ragnar was suspected of espionage actions and refused fuel by the Norwegians. Other Russian-operated vessels have also been shown to spend large amounts of time in waters of strategic significance to Norway.

At the time of writing, Melkart 5 is currently docked in Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands. Although evidence suggests that Melkart 5 may not have been the only Russian-operated ship to have engaged in espionage while in Icelandic waters, definitive proof has not yet emerged.

Russian Embassy Criticises Foreign Minister’s, President’s Tweets

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

The Russian Embassy in Reykjavík has expressed disappointment in Tweets authored by the President of Iceland and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Embassy has called the Tweets, which declare support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, “one-sided” and “subjective.”

Supportive tweets

On February 15, Minister of Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir took to Twitter to encourage Russia to “deescalate” and “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Ukraine. The Tweets followed the Minister’s meeting with Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, in which the pair discussed “the serious security situation in Europe.”

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson retweeted the Minister’s message a day later, extending a greeting to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine on the newly declared Unity Day: “Iceland is united with (its) NATO Allies to call on Russia to deescalate and respect the sovereignty & territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

The Russian Embassy responds

Yesterday, the Russian Embassy in Reykjavík responded to the President’s and Minister’s Tweets, saying that it had been “deeply disappointed with Reykjavík’s one-sided and subjective comprehension of the real situation in the region.”

The Embassy holds that the escalation at the Ukrainian border is to be traced to the failure of Ukrainian authorities to comply with the Minsk II agreement – which has proven difficult to implement, owing in no small part to profound differences in interpretation between Moscow and Kyiv – and the “active participation” of Western countries in the militarisation of Ukraine.

The Embassy called on Iceland to take a “more balanced and constructive approach” towards matters of European security.

Rising tensions

Tensions have been growing between Ukraine and Russia over the past few weeks. According to the US, Russia is believed to have amassed approximately 150,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, demanding that Ukraine be permanently denied membership to NATO and that NATO remove all soldiers and weapons from Eastern Europe. NATO has rejected these demands on the grounds of the principle of self-determination.

US President Biden stated yesterday that it was “highly likely” that Russia would invade Ukraine in the coming days; the Russian authorities have denied that they harbour any such plans.

(This article was updated at 9.40 AM)