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International court orders Russia to suspend war against Ukraine

International court orders Russia to suspend war against Ukraine
An undated image of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands. The court ruled on Wednesday that Russia should immediate end its hostilities against Ukraine. File Photo by Ankor Light/Shutterstock

March 16 (UPI) -- The International Court of Justice in The Hague on Wednesday ordered Russia to immediately suspend its war against Ukraine in a move largely seen as symbolic with no one from the Kremlin attending or participating in the proceedings.

The Ukrainian government asked the United Nations' top court to take action early this month after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 with no signs so far of a diplomatic breakthrough to end the fighting.

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"The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine," the court said in its statement.

"The Russian Federation shall ensure that any military or irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it, as well as any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control or direction, take no steps in furtherance of the military operations referred to in the point above."

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The court said that Russia and Ukraine should refrain from any action that would aggravate the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky celebrated the ruling as "a complete victory" for Kyiv, stating the order is binding under international law.

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"Russia must comply immediately," he tweeted. "Ignoring the order will isolate Russia even further."

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The court, though, does not have any means of enforcing the action since United Nations sanctions can only be levied by the Security Council. Russia, as a member of that body, would have the power to single-handedly veto such action.

However, Harold Hongju Koh, the lawyer who argued on behalf of Kyiv, disputed the claim the court has no enforcement authority, stating the ruling removes any questions about the legality of Russian President Vladimir Putin's war.

"That brands him as an outlaw, further isolates him and strengthens the case for further sanctions and accountability measures if he persists," Koh said in a statement. "Today's ruling should strengthen the resolve of every country, and every international institution, to reinforce the Court's order, stop Russian aggression, sanction the perpetrators and bring them to justice."

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The court held the proceedings with Ukraine contesting Russia's formal explanation claiming its actions are an effort to stop genocide and eliminate Nazi influence. Ukraine said the explanations were nothing more than a pretext to justify an unprovoked war.

French lawyer Alain Pellet, counsel for Russia before the ICJ, resigned ahead of the case, stating in an open letter addressed to "my Russian friends" that "there is no justification for the use of war to impose a political regime change in Kyiv or a territorial dismemberment of Ukraine -- probably both."

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"Yesterday, I sent my letter of resignation to the competent authorities: Lawyers can defend more or less questionable causes. But it has become impossible to represent in forums dedicated to the application of the law a country that os cynically despises it," Pellet wrote in the letter dated Feb. 23.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it "welcomes" the court's "significant" ruling and will continue to work with allies in support of Ukraine.

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