UN approves resolution for Russia to pay reparations to Ukraine

Experts have estimated that the damages range from $700bn to $1tn

Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia. Getty / AFP
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The UN General Assembly on Monday adopted a resolution calling for Russia to pay reparations to Ukraine.

Russia should pay the costs of any "internationally wrongful acts", including compensation for those killed and injured, and for humanitarian assistance and the country's eventual reconstruction.

In all, 94 nations supported the resolution, while 73 abstained.

Iran, Mali, Nicaragua, China, North Korea, Belarus, Cuba, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Eritrea opposed the resolution.

The non-binding measure was co-sponsored by a dozen nations including the US.

It reaffirmed the General Assembly’s commitment to Ukraine’s “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity” and repeated its demand for Russia to immediately “cease its use of force against Ukraine”.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya reminded member states that 77 years ago the Soviet Union demanded and received reparations, calling it a “moral right of a country that has suffered war and occupation."”

Today, Mr Kyslytsya said, Ukraine will have the “daunting task” of rebuilding and recovering from the war.

“We will restore every house, every street, every city," Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed in a video address in March.

“You will reimburse us for everything you did against our state, against every Ukrainian, in full."

Experts have estimated that the damages range between $700 billion and a projected $1 trillion.

In the past, reparations have been paid after hostilities ended by the aggressor country, for example Germany after the First World War and Japan after the Second World War.

Zelenskyy in Kherson after liberation - in pictures

But the General Assembly has no enforcement system, said Robert Litan, a fellow at the Brookings Institution..

Mr Litan said the current situation was unique because there was "no way Russia will ever apologise".

More than $300bn of Russian money has been frozen by governments around the world.

Because countries such as the US, France, Germany and Japan already have control over Russia’s foreign currency holdings, reparations for the Ukrainian invasion have in effect been pre-funded by Moscow, Mr Litan told The National.

"This is an admittedly unique circumstance, but there is a basis in international law for enabling nations that hold these reserves to commit them to pay for damage," he said.

Mr Litan said Russia can be forced to pay for war damages, and the US should tap into Russian foreign exchange reserves that are held in central banks outside the country.

"There is growing support for this idea," he said.

Russia's UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzia, accused the West of wanting to unfreeze the assets but "not to return them to its rightful owner and not to spend them on helping Ukraine, but rather to fund their own constantly growing weapons supplies to Kyiv and covering the debts for the weapons already supplied".

"The General Assembly is needed for that to serve as a screen to hide this open robbery," Mr Nebenzia said.

Updated: November 14, 2022, 8:48 PM