On Tuesday, the highest court of the United Nations begins hearings in a case brought by Ukraine against Russia regarding the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the equipping of separatists in eastern Ukraine in the years preceding Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Kyiv wants the International Court of Justice to order Moscow to pay reparations for attacks in the region, including the July 17, 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by Russia-backed separatists, which resulted in the deaths of all 298 passengers and crew.
The inauguration of four days of hearings in the court’s opulent, wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice occurs as Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II continues to rage in Ukraine.
Tuesday, Ukraine accused Russian forces of destroying a major dam and hydroelectric power station in a region of the country under Moscow’s control, threatening a catastrophic inundation.
Tuesday, attorneys for Kiev will present their case’s legal arguments, followed by Russia on Thursday. Next week, each party will have another opportunity to present evidence. It is anticipated that judges will take months to issue a ruling.
This case is one of several related to Ukraine and pending against Russia.
In a separate case brought by Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s illegal invasion, the international court issued a preliminary order mandating a cessation of hostilities — a legally binding order that Moscow disregarded.
In such a scenario, Kiev contends that Russia violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by falsely accusing Ukraine of committing genocide and using this as a pretext for the invasion on February 24, 2022. Moscow asserts that the court lacks jurisdiction.
A few kilometers away at the International Criminal Court, judges have issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of deporting and unlawfully transferring Ukrainian minors. Russia is not a member and does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.
In their absence, a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a pro-Russian Ukrainian for their roles in the downing of MH17 and sentenced them to life in prison last year.
Additionally, Ukraine has a case pending against Russia at the International Court of Justice for its invasion last year, and the Netherlands and Ukraine have filed a lawsuit against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights regarding MH17.
Russia has always denied involvement in the shoot-down of the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur passenger aircraft that was shot down by a Soviet-era missile over eastern Ukraine.
Tuesday’s hearing is in a case brought by Kyiv in 2017 regarding Russia’s arming of separatists in eastern Ukraine and suppression of the rights of ethnic Tatars and other minorities after its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
In a preliminary judgment, the court ordered Russia to cease restricting “the Crimean Tatar community’s ability to preserve its representative institutions.”