German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called Monday for a special tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders, as Moscow faced war crimes accusations over a strike in Ukraine's Dnipro.
Baerbock called for a "new format" of court to "bring Russian leaders to justice" for their invasion of Ukraine, possibly using Ukrainian law but based abroad with international judges.
"We need to voice a clear message to the Russian leadership here and now that a war of aggression will not go unpunished," Baerbock said in a speech to the Hague Academy of International Law.
Calls have grown for a way to try to punish Russian leaders for the crime of aggression, as the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot do so under its rules.
Germany's top diplomat said she had discussed with Ukraine and other allies a "special solution" that could "derive its jurisdiction from Ukrainian criminal law."
But she added that it was "important for us to have an international component, for example, a location outside Ukraine, with financial support from partners and with international prosecutors and judges," she added.
"That would be a new format."
The German Foreign Ministry later tweeted that Baerbock wanted to "support Ukraine internationally in setting up a special tribunal for aggression in The Hague."
Baerbock also called for changes to the statute of the Hague-based ICC so it can eventually put the Russian leadership on trial for aggression.
- 'Despicable crimes' -
The ICC is investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. But under rules adopted in 2018 it cannot prosecute Russia for the separate crime of aggression, as it is not a member.
The only way to do so at present is through a UN Security Council referral, which Russia as a permanent member would veto.
In November, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen floated the idea of a "specialised court" to put Russian leaders on trial.
During a news conference later, Baerbock and Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra raised the issue of children allegedly abducted from Ukraine and taken to Russia.
"These children were kidnapped," Baerbock said, adding that Germany and the Netherlands had agreed to "consider further EU sanctions" against Russia over the matter.
"These are despicable crimes," Hoekstra added.
The German and Dutch ministers however skirted around the issue of Ukraine's call for its allies to deliver Leopard battle tanks, which Berlin has so far refused to approve.
"Of course we're talking about tanks. We'll continue to see what is possible with our partners," said Hoekstra, whose country sold most of its Leopards a decade ago but now operates a joint battalion with Germany.
Germany's call for a special court came as EU officials said that Russia's weekend strike on a residential block in Dnipro, which killed at least 40 people, constitutes a "war crime".
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, whose country holds the EU presidency, condemned the "horrific attack".
"Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes. Those responsible will be held to account", he said, speaking at a joint press conference in Stockholm with European Council President Charles Michel.