THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – Ukraine’s case against Russia opened at the International Court of Justice on Tuesday, with a senior Ukrainian diplomat, Anton Kurinevych, calling Russia a “terrorist state.” Legal proceedings initiated by Kiev accuse Moscow of waging a “campaign of intimidation and terror” by rebels in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
The case at the UN’s highest court revolves around Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine ahead of a full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Ukraine has been demanding compensation from Russia for various attacks in the region, including the downing of the infamous Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, 2014. The passenger plane was shot down by Russian-backed rebels, tragically killing all 298 people on board.
According to Harald Kuh, a lawyer representing Ukraine, Russia has taken no action to stop funding violent groups targeting Ukraine. Instead, as the conflict escalated, Russian officials reportedly increased the illegal supply of funds and weapons.
Koh pointed out that the Buck anti-aircraft system was sent to Ukraine in July 2014, which ultimately led to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Earlier in the operation, Korenevich said that Russia, unable to contain Ukraine on the battlefield, had resorted to targeting civilian infrastructure to subdue the country. He highlighted Russia’s recent destruction of a large dam in Novaya Kakhivka, which resulted in significant environmental damage, civilian evacuations, and threats to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Korynevych described these actions as a terrorist state and an act of aggression.
The four-day hearings in the court’s Great Hall of Justice shed light on Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II. Both Ukraine and Russia have been trading accusations over damage to the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric plant in a region of Ukraine controlled by Moscow.
Lawyers representing Ukraine in The Hague presented their legal arguments on Tuesday, while Russia is due to present its case on Thursday. Both sides will have a chance to present evidence next week, with judges expected to take several months to issue a decision.
Another member of Ukraine’s legal team, David Zivants, alleged that pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine carried out the attacks on civilians as part of a campaign of intimidation and terror. Zionts further claimed that Russian money and weapons fueled the campaign.
The case is one of several legal actions initiated by Ukraine against Russia in connection with the conflict. In a separate case filed shortly after Russia’s illegal invasion, the International Court of Justice issued a preliminary injunction requiring Russia to cease hostilities. However, Moscow chose to ignore this legally binding order.
Kiev argued in the case that Russia violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by falsely alleging genocide in February 2022 as a pretext for invading Ukraine. Russia, on the other hand, argues that the court lacks jurisdiction.
Additionally, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of illegally transporting and deporting children from Ukraine. However, Russia, being a non-member of the court, does not recognize its jurisdiction.
Additionally, a Dutch local court last year convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian for their involvement in the MH17 tragedy. Ukraine has also filed another case against Russia at the International Court of Justice regarding its attack, while the Netherlands and Ukraine jointly filed a case against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over MH17.