Kiev will seek to convince the UN’s top court Monday that Moscow is “sponsoring terrorism” in a bloody conflict involving separatist pro-Russian rebels, as tensions escalate in war-torn eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s representatives will also ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to take emergency measures ordering Russia to stop its alleged funnelling of money, weapons and personnel into the east, and to halt what it called “discrimination” of minorities in Russian-occupied Crimea.
It is also seeking compensation for attacks on civilians in nearly three years of conflict.
Moscow has long denied arming the rebels and has hit back that the case was just motivated “by political interests”.
It has also claimed that Kiev in fact had “shown a lack of will to hold a concrete dialogue.”
Ukraine lodged its case against its former Soviet master at the court based in The Hague in mid-January, saying it has protested for several years against Moscow’s alleged financing of separatist rebels battling Ukrainian government forces.
Kiev says Moscow has “largely failed” to respond to its efforts to negotiate a resolution in the dispute and that “further negotiations would be futile.”
Ukraine now “respectfully requests the court to adjudge and declare that the Russian Federation bears international responsibility by virtue of its sponsorship of terrorism… for the acts of terrorism committed by its proxies in Ukraine,” it said in papers before the court.
Nearly three years of conflict have claimed some 10,000 lives in eastern Ukraine — and led to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea in 2014 — pushing ties between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.
Rare talks between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over the past month have proved “fruitless”, the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement Thursday.
– Upsurge in fighting –
The talks come amid an upsurge in violence which killed 35 people in early February, centred around the government-held town of Avdiivka near rebel bastion Donetsk.
Moscow also “brazenly defied” the UN Charter by seizing Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea, and then attempted to “legitimise its act of aggression” by holding an “illegal referendum”, Kiev said in its filing.
It accuses Russia of discriminating against Crimean minorities such as Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians including conducting what it termed a campaign of “cultural erasure” against these groups.
Ukraine wants Russia to “make full reparations for… acts of terrorism the Russian Federation has caused, facilitated or supported,” it said, including the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 shot down by a missile over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014.
A Russian embassy official told AFP that a “broad delegation” of some 35 officials including “members of different agencies, experts and lawyers” will be present at the four days of hearings which open Monday, and are due to end on Thursday.
The ICJ was set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between countries.
While the ICJ is now considering whether to take up the full dispute, its 15 permanent judges must also decide on the so-called provisional or emergency measures requested by Kiev, including ordering Moscow to “refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute.”
While UN member nations are bound to abide by the decisions of the ICJ, in reality whatever decision the court reaches is unlikely to have much concrete effect on the ground.
The Hague, Netherlands | AFP