Ukraine to confront Russia at top UN court

Danny Kemp, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 06 2023 01:24 PM

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (right.) EPA-EFE/file photos
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (right.) EPA-EFE/file photos

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Ukraine will go head-to-head with Russia at the UN's top court on Tuesday to accuse its bitter foe of backing pro-Moscow rebels for years before last year's full-scale invasion.

Kyiv and Moscow will give their arguments to judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, in a case that was originally started by Ukraine back in 2017.

Ukraine has since filed a separate case related to Russia's February 2022 invasion, accusing Moscow of planning genocide. The ICJ in that case ordered Russia to suspend the invasion.

Lawyers for Ukraine will speak on Tuesday from 10 a.m. local time, while Russia's will address the court on Thursday, the ICJ said in a statement. Ukraine will then reply on June 12 and Russia on June 14.

The ICJ was created after World War II to deal with disputes between UN member states. Its decisions are binding although it has no means to enforce them.

Ukraine alleges that Russia breached UN conventions on financing terrorism and on racial discrimination, and is seeking damages for attacks by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

About 13,000 people died in the eight years of violence before the 2022 invasion.

Ukraine says Russia funneled arms and cash to fighters behind a separatist insurgency that broke out after the pro-Russian government in Kyiv was toppled by pro-EU protests in early 2014.

WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS

Russia has denied all links to the rebels. Since the invasion, it now holds much of the territory where the violence took place and where the separatists were in charge.

The dead in eastern Ukraine include 298 people killed when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down with a Russian-made BUK missile over rebel territory in July 2014.

A Dutch court ruled last year that Moscow had directly controlled the rebels, as it sentenced two Russians and a Ukrainian separatist to life sentences in absentia over MH17.

International investigators said separately in February this year that there were "strong indications" that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the supply of the missile that downed the plane.

ICJ judges ruled that the case could go ahead in 2019, after dismissing Russia's attempts to have it thrown out.

Russia faces a series of legal actions in The Hague over the conflict in Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent war crimes tribunal which like the ICJ is also based in the Dutch city, issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March.

Putin is accused by the ICC of the war crime of unlawfully deporting children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.

© Agence France-Presse