Ukraine’s key Western allies have yet to sign up to establish a tribunal to try Vladimir Putin and his entourage for the crime of aggression, wanting to make room for future relations with Russia, according to senior Ukrainian officials.

“It’s big politics. On the one hand, the countries publicly condemn the aggression, but on the other, they put their foot in the door of closing relations with Russia so that it does not close completely,” said Andriy Smyrnov, chief deputy in the Ukrainian presidential administration, who is leading the country’s efforts to establish the international tribunal.

“They are trying to keep space for diplomatic maneuvering,” Smyrnov said. “We know that agreements with Russia are not worth the paper they are written on.”

His claims come as US President Joe Biden said on Monday that Russia should not be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, something Ukrainian officials and some US politicians had been calling for. Russia had previously said such a designation would mean Washington had passed the point of no return.

Ukrainian officials say that since April they have been trying to convince their Western allies to establish an ad hoc tribunal that would hold top Russian leaders accountable for the crime of aggression for invading Ukraine. Aggression is considered the supreme crime under international law because without the transgression of borders during an invasion, subsequent war crimes would not have been committed.

So far, only the Baltic states and Poland have pledged support for the tribunal, Ukrainian officials said. “We expect wider support,” said Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin. “For us, the support of the UK and the US is very important, as well as the rest of the civilized world,” Smyrnov said.

Britain’s newly elected Prime Minister Liz Truss told Times Radio in May, when she was Foreign Secretary, that she would consider backing the tribunal. The Council of Europe is due to discuss support for such a measure on September 13.

At an event in Brussels on Monday, Andriy Yermak – senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – asked why there had been a delay in setting up the court and said some European officials seemed convinced that the International Criminal Court ( CPI) was sufficient.

At the same event, the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said he was open to the idea, but spoke above all about the help the EU provides in compiling war crimes which can be referred to the ICC.

Ukraine favors a single international tribunal to try Russian leaders for aggression, which falls outside the jurisdiction of the ICC. The court is poised to bring war crimes cases that require prosecutors to identify the direct perpetrators of a crime and then trace the command structure upwards, making it difficult to access the upper echelons of the Russian regime.

Western allies, however, have been reluctant to move to try Putin and other senior figures, an act that would likely end all relations. Ukraine believes this indicates that, despite the scale of atrocities and public statements against Russia, some of its allies are considering possible negotiations with Russia’s current leadership.

“It will be like judging concentration camp directors and letting Hitler and his team go free,” said Oleh Gavrysh, a member of Smyrnov’s team in the presidential office. At the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, Nazi leaders were tried for the crime of aggression, then known as the crime against peace.

Ukrainian officials say the case would not require much investigation and would act as a simple mechanism to ensure that Kremlin decision-makers are held accountable since the fact that the act of aggression took place was overwhelmingly accepted by a vote in the United Nations General Assembly and was supported. by a resolution of the European Parliament. This has also been repeatedly admitted by Putin and his entourage.

The legal arm of the Open Society Foundations has issued a preliminary indictment against Putin and seven of his closest allies for the crime of aggression. He said he hoped the document could demonstrate the feasibility of such a tribunal.

“When you help the ICC, you donate to the independent judicial authority and you are not tied in any way to the outcome,” said Kostin, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor. “When you support [a] court, you are acting as a state, it is a political act and not everyone, at the moment, is ready to support this politically.

He added: “Russia is like unknown land (uncharted territory) for many of them and some of them want to keep a certain place to, if not become friends again, but have relations, which I don’t understand and no Ukrainian will understand.

Some states viewed the court idea with skepticism because Putin and his men would likely be tried in absentia, Smyrnov said.

“The main thing I want to say to skeptical countries is that the creation of this court…is not about symbolism,” Smyrnov said.

“It makes no difference whether Putin is personally present at this court. [If] the majority of the civilized countries of the world sign this international agreement to establish the tribunal…we will reduce and limit Putin’s international allies.

“If Putin’s circle is reduced to North Korea and Syria, that will be fine and if [Putin] dies in his own country labeled as an international criminal, it will be a concrete punishment.