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Ukraine-Russia conflict comes before International Court of Justice

By Ed Adamczyk
Ukraine-Russia conflict comes before International Court of Justice
Olena Zerkal, a representative of Ukraine, awaits the start of Ukraine's lawsuit against Russia on Monday in the international Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. Ukraine contends Russia's support of anti-government forces in Ukraine and Russian annexation of Crimea are violations of United Nations treaties. Photo by Bas Czerwinski, EPA

March 6 (UPI) -- Ukraine began its case against Russia on Monday in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The four-day hearing is the start of a lawsuit in which Ukraine accuses Russia of illegally annexing Crimea and funding separatist rebels within Ukraine. It also includes the alleged Russian downing of a Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014, an incident in which all 298 people aboard the plane died.

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A 45-page complaint details alleged violations under two U.N. conventions. It accuses Russia of violating the Terror Financing Treaty through its ongoing support of "illegally armed groups" in eastern Ukraine, and of alleged mistreatment of ethnic Tartar and Ukrainian populations, a violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination during the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

"Ukraine initiates the legal fight, the international opposition to Russian aggression in the legal field, the opposition to the occupation of Crimea and Donbas, and massive violation of human rights," said Iryna Herashchenko, Ukrainian parliament member and envoy to the legal proceedings, in a statement.

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Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations and will be able to respond during the initial hearing. Ukrainian lawyers accused Russia of making it "impossible for Ukrainian citizens to feel safe anywhere in their country" in opening remarks Monday.

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Court proceedings could take up to three years, former ICJ judge Bruno Simma told the German newspaper Deutsche Welle, noting that "It's a complicated situation."

Unlike the International Criminal Court, also headquartered in The Hague, Russia recognizes ICJ authority and as a U.N. security council permanent member can ask for a Russian citizen to be appointed to the ICJ's 15-member board of judges.

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Nearly 10,000 people have died in the three-year conflict in Ukraine.

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