Ukraine Sues Russia in International Court Over Support for Separatists

Kiev files case in U.N. court accusing Moscow of discrimination, terror financing in Crimea

Russia Military Drills
Russian armored vehicles take a part in a landing operation during military drills at the Black Sea coast, Crimea / AP
January 17, 2017

Ukraine filed a lawsuit late Monday against Russia in the United Nation's highest court over its occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, demanding Moscow immediately stop sending money and weapons to separatists in Ukraine.

Ukraine filed the case in the International Court of Justice, charging that the Russian Federation has financed acts of terrorism and engaged in discrimination through its illegal intervention in eastern Ukraine in violation of international law.

"Ukraine alleges that the Russian Federation is violating the Terrorism Financing Convention by supplying weapons and other forms of assistance to illegal armed groups operating on Ukrainian territory," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine said in a statement announcing the case. "These groups have committed acts of terrorism in Ukraine with weapons supplied by Russia, including the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17."

"In addition, Ukraine alleges that the Russian Federation is violating the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by engaging in a campaign of discrimination against non-Russian communities living in the occupied Crimean Peninsula, including, in particular, the ethnic Ukrainian and Tatar communities," the ministry stated, accusing Russia of deliberately implementing a "policy of cultural erasure" to suppress these communities.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, released more details on the case on Tuesday. Ukraine has asked the court to implement provisional measures pending the ruling on the case directing Russia to halt transfers of money, weapons, equipment, and personnel from its territory to separatist groups engaging in terrorism against Ukraine and to stop racial discrimination against groups in Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia.

Russia's foreign ministry described the lawsuit as motivated by "political aims" and said that Moscow would use "all means of legal protection available to it," according to Russian-controlled TASS news agency.

"As part of its unlawful aggression in Ukraine, the Russian Federation has displayed contempt for the basic human rights of the people of Ukraine," Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine's foreign minister, said Monday.

"We have tried to resolve the disputes through negotiation as required by Conventions for more than two years, but the Russian Federation has been unwilling to cease its violations of international law," Klimkin explained. "Therefore, we have filed our case to hold the Russian Federation accountable for these violations and to vindicate the fundamental rights of the Ukrainian people under these treaties, to which the Russian Federation is a signatory."

Russia first intervened in Ukraine in spring 2014 after a revolution toppled Russian-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, and annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Since then, pro-Russian separatists have continued to fight Ukrainian forces in the country's eastern region. Violence in the conflict spiked in December, with at least seven Ukrainian troops killed and dozens wounded over a four-day period.

The United States and European Union have slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for their involvement in the nearly three-year conflict, and have refused to recognize the referendum that Russia claims legitimizes its annexation of Crimea. NATO has also bolstered its forces in the Baltic states and Poland to ward off Russian aggression.

The Obama administration has been criticized for not providing Ukrainian troops with lethal defensive weapons, despite many in Congress supporting such a move.

The lawsuit comes as President-elect Donald Trump, who will be inaugurated on Friday, receives continued scrutiny for his willingness to pursue better relations with Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Relations between the United States and Russia have eroded over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as Moscow's hacking campaign to undermine the U.S. presidential election in November.