Date: 30 April 2017

A Tie in The Hague

The ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case filed by Ukraine against Russia proves that it will be difficult for Kiev to successfully fight Moscow on the international law arena. The Hague Court has found that Ukrainian claims are legitimate only in half – a less important half from Kiev’s perspective.


In January, Ukraine filed a lawsuit in ICJ, accusing Russia of violations of two international conventions, namely International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. As for the first one, Ukraine accuses Russia of supplying weapons to armed rebel groups operating in Donbass, and in the case of the second convention – of discriminating non-Russian groups in Crimea, in particular Ukrainian and Tatar minorities.

The International Court of Justice ordered Russia to allow teaching in the Ukrainian language in Crimea and to refrain from blocking the activity of Tatar representative institutions there. The ICS ruling, however, doesn’t satisfy Ukrainian demands to take measures preventing Russia from supporting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine. As the judges have pointed out, at the current stage of the proceedings the evidence isn’t sufficient to prove the thesis that rebels in eastern Ukraine receive money and weapons from Russia.

It’s noteworthy that 13 judges, some of whom are considered pro-Russian, voted for (3 against) on the Crimean issue. For the time being, however, Donbass is of key importance, not Crimea. And Kiev failed to convince the judges in this point. Anyway, the tactic employed by Russians was to “challenge jurisdiction”. They argued that ICJ had no power to try the Ukrainian case. However, this argument was rejected by The Hague. Nevertheless, the final decision on Donbass was unfavorable for Ukraine. In any case, bringing a case concerning the events in Donbass was considered doubtful from the beginning, as the main accusation against Kremlin was not terrorism but military intervention in Ukraine. Moscow doesn’t deny that weapons are delivered to separatists in Donbass from Russian territory, but it claims that there’s no evidence for such weapons being used for terrorist attacks. The current ruling is of provisional character, and the case may still take years. Yet, it’ll be hard for Kiev to force a ruling that would block Russian aid for the rebels.

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