Ukraine accuses Russia of backing pro-Moscow rebels at UN’s top court

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6th June 2023 – (The Hague) Ukraine will face Russia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Tuesday, 6th June, to accuse its foe of providing support to pro-Moscow rebels for several years before last year’s full-scale invasion. Ukraine alleges that Russia violated UN conventions on financing terrorism and on racial discrimination and is seeking compensation for the attacks carried out by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The ICJ was established after World War II to settle disputes between UN member states, and its rulings are binding, although it has no means to enforce them. Ukraine claims that Russia funnelled arms and cash to separatist insurgents behind an uprising that broke out after the pro-Russian government in Kyiv was toppled by pro-EU protests in early 2014. The eight years of violence before the 2022 invasion resulted in the deaths of about 13,000 people.

Russia, which has denied all links to the rebels, holds much of the territory where the violence occurred and where the separatists were in charge since the invasion. The dead in eastern Ukraine include 298 people, including those aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which was shot down with a Russian-made BUK missile over rebel territory in July 2014.

Dutch court found last year that Moscow had directly controlled the rebels, sentencing two Russians and a Ukrainian separatist to life sentences in absentia over the MH17 tragedy. In February this year, international investigators separately stated that there were “strong indications” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the missile’s supply that downed the plane.

Ukraine filed a case related to Russia’s February 2022 invasion, accusing Moscow of planning genocide, and the ICJ in that case ordered Russia to suspend the invasion. The ICJ judges ruled in 2019 that the case could go ahead, after dismissing Russia’s attempts to have it thrown out.

Lawyers for Ukraine will present their arguments on Tuesday, 6th June, while Russia will address the court on Thursday, 9th June. Ukraine will reply on 12th June, and Russia will do so on 14th June. Russia faces a series of legal actions in The Hague over the conflict in Ukraine, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent war crimes tribunal 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.