Ukraine Files Suit Against Russia At International Court Of Justice

January 17, 2017
Aftermath of a rocket attack on January 24, 2015, that killed 30 civilians in Mariupol - one of the violations described in the Ukrainian case submitted to the ICJ. Photo via the Prosecutor General of Ukraine's office.

Ukraine Day 1065: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


1 Ukrainian Soldier Injured from IED; 1 Child Injured, 1 Civilian Male Killed from Shelling

Eduard Basurin (R), defense minister of self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic” walks in the town of Dolitmoye carrying part of an 82-mm shell he says was fired by Ukrainian forces and injured a child. Screen grab from Union TV, January 16, 2017.

Two Ukrainian soldiers were wounded on the front line at Popasnyanskaya due to the detonation of an explosive device, Col. Oleksandr Motyzyanik said at his briefing today, January 17, Ukrainska Pravda reported.

Russia-backed forces attacked 41 times, firing with 82-mm mortar-launchers, grenade-launchers and small arms on Pavlopol in the Mariupol sector. They also used grenade-launchers and small arms to fire on Gnutovo, Maryinka, Vodyanoye, Krasnogorovka and Shirokino.

On the Lugansk line, militants fired from grenade-launchers and small arms on Sharov Kut, Stanitsa Luganskaya and Novozvanovka.

On the Donetsk line, militants fired on Luganskoye, Opytnoye, Avdeyevka, and Mirinovskaya.

OSCE made a visit to the town of Pikuza (formerly known as Kominternovo) accompanied by an officer of the Russian Army from the Joint Center for Command and Control (JCCC) as well as a member of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR),, the Mariupol city news site reported. They saw a large hole on the flat roof of a shed about 5 meters from a home, and found the stabilizer tail of an 82-mm mortar. Two windows were broken in the neighboring house. At a second location, they found a damaged roof, two broken windows and another 82-mm mortar tail but no crater. At a third location, they saw a fresh crater which they said came from an 82-mm mortar fired from the west. Residents said the town was shelled January 13 at midnight. There were no casualties. 

OSCE also said they encountered a DNR patrol on January 14 east of Sosnovskoye (35 northeast of Mariupol) whih did not allow the observers into the town. The DNR said they could only be admitted when the SMM cleared their trip and showed their patrol route in advance.

The pro-Russian Union TV reported that 7 homes were damaged in shelling outside Gorlovka in Zaytsevo, Zheleznaya Balka and Dolomitnoye on January 16. According to Union, a child born in 2014 was injured in the shelling and is currently hospitalized in fair but stable condition. His mother said either shrapnel or a mortar landed on the house and her son suffered broken bones and lacerations.

News-Front, another pro-Russian YouTube channel, showed a clip of Eduard Baturin, self-styled defense minister of the DNR, who said Ukrainian forces shelled Dolomitnoye (Dolomitne) on January 16 with 122-mm artillery (banned under the Minsk accord), causing a lower-limb injury to the toddler and causing his elder brother (born 2009) and mother to suffer shock. Baturin said after surgery, the prognosis is that the boy will be able to walk. He said shells also hit power lines and a power station. Baturin said as with all such cases, a criminal case would be opened.

Translation: #DNR #Gorlovka City Hospital No. 2, 3-year-old Kirill wounded yesterday in Dolomitnoye with fracture of femur (photo Prikhodo, January 16). Tied to bed in prohibited fashion! #Auschwitz

According to the OSCE SMM report issued today, January 17 which covered January 15-16, monitors interviewed the mother of the child and his doctor in Dolitme (Dolitmoye), and also reported on the death of a civilian male in Irmino:

The Mission followed up on reports of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. In Horlivka, the SMM spoke with an injured three-year-old boy and his mother at a hospital, where two doctors told the SMM that the boy was being treated for a fracture to his left femur and shrapnel injuries to the left leg. The mother told the SMM that shelling had taken place during the evening of 15 January in “DPR”-controlled Dolomitne (53km north-east of Donetsk), when she had heard an explosion while in her living room and noticed afterwards that one of her two sons was bleeding from his left leg. The chief paediatric surgeon told the SMM that the boy had undergone surgery during the night.

In “LPR”-controlled Irmino (54km west of Luhansk), the SMM followed up on a reported death of a 27-year-old civilian man. (See SMM Daily Report 16 January) The SMM saw a crater about 2m in diameter inside a fenced area around the house where the family said the man had died, as well as plastic sheets covering broken windows and dozens of holes assessed as shrapnel damage on the outer, primarily west-facing walls. The father of the deceased told the SMM that the family, including the mother and wife of the deceased, had taken cover in the basement when shelling had begun but that his 27-year-old son had gone outside to check the direction of shelling when a projectile had impacted in the garden.

OSCE SMM did not make a determination regarding which side of the conflict was responsible for the civilian casualties.

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Georgia’s State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Viktor Dolidze today, but no mention was made of the Ukrainian commander-in-chief’s visit which we reported yesterday.

At a press conference in Kiev with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin, the new chair-in-office of OSCE, Austrian Minister for European, Integration and Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz, said he was interested in expanding the Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine, Unian reported.

He said the mission had to be “given more opportunities and access to this territory [the Donbass] so that the observers can better fulfill their mission.

When Kurz visited the area near the frontline earlier this month, villagers told him that they wished the OSCE monitors wouldn’t quit at 5 pm, the end of a standard working day. The shelling begans after 5, they said, and that’s when they need OSCE to be listening.

Kurz began a two-day trip to Russia today, Sputnik International reported.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Le Pen Claims Crimea Was “Never Ukrainian” And Joins Trump In Bashing Berlin

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National and a contender for this year’s presidential elections, has reiterated her position on the Russian occupation of Crimea, claiming that it is not only legitimate, but that the peninsula “never was Ukrainian.”

Two weeks ago Le Pen told France’s BFMTV that the internationally-condemned referendum, held days after Russian troops took over administrative buildings and surrounded Ukrainian military bases, was perfectly legal.

Today, in an interview with Russia’s pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper, Le Pen said was asked if she would recognize Crimea as Russia’s sovereign territory if elected – something she had said she was likely to do back in May last year.

“Yes, after the referendum, which demonstrated the consent of the people to reunification with Russia, I also recognize Crimea as part of Russia. Crimea’s belonging to Ukraine was just an administrative issue from the Soviet era, the peninsula was never Ukrainian. I deplore the fact that the referendum, organized to demonstrate the will of the people of the peninsula, has not been accepted by the international community and UN.”

Le Pen said that she would, “without question,” call for the lifting of EU sanctions on Russia, calling them a “rather foolish method of diplomacy.”

Ironically, given Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Le Pen said that:

“We shouldn’t have any business with a system in which major powers impose their own policies with regards to other states upon third countries, like obstinate children.”

Interestingly, Le Pen placed a particular focus on the role of Germany with regards to the European Union and foreign policy.

On sanctions policy, the Front National leader said that French politicians had “demonstrated unacceptable solidarity with Germany on this issue and adherence to German orders.”

“Unlike other candidates for the presidency, I refuse to swear allegiance to any other country, and i will not, unlike Francois Fillon, Manuel Vals and Emmanuel Macron, seek approval for my plan in Berlin.”

Le Pen’s comments US President-elect Donald Trump’s comments in an interview with The Times on Sunday, in which he said that the EU was dominated by Germany:

“You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”

Furthermore, the Russian government, which has long directed propaganda against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, seen as a bulwark against Russia in the EU, even more so after Britain’s vote to leave the Union, has recently accused Germany of “whipping up hysteria” against Russia: 

Instead, Le Pen said that she wants France to “participate in the construction of a multi-polar, more balanced and, eventually, more peaceful world,” with the country “independent from the USA and NATO.” 

Here again, Le Pen is in sync with Trump, who told The Times, that NATO was “obsolete,” and the Kremlin which has long advocated a “multi-polar world” free from US “hegemony.”

— Pierre Vaux

Ukraine Files Suit Against Russia At International Court Of Justice

The Ukrainian government has filed a lawsuit at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague, accusing Russia of “acts of terrorism and discrimination in the course of its unlawful aggression.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry released a statement last night:

The case has been filed under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

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. These groups have committed acts of terrorism in Ukraine with weapons supplied by Russia, including the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.

Other acts of terrorism include the bombardment of residential areas in Mariupol and Kramatorsk, the destruction of a civilian passenger bus near Volnovakha, and the deadly bombing of a peaceful gathering in Kharkiv.

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. Beginning with an illegal “referendum” carried out in an atmosphere of intimidation, Russian occupation authorities have implemented a policy of cultural erasure against these communities. This pattern of discrimination  has been condemned by the U.N. General Assembly and includes a prohibition on the Mejlis, the representative organization of the Crimean Tatar people; a wave of disappearances, murders, and arbitrary searches and detentions; attempts to silence the media; and restrictions on the teaching of the Ukrainian and Tatar languages.    

“As part of its unlawful aggression in Ukraine, the Russian Federation has displayed contempt for the basic human rights of the people of Ukraine,” said Pavlo Klimkin, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. “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. 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.”

Ukraine has requested the International Court of Justice to impose provisional measures to prevent Russia from compounding its human rights abuses while the case is pending.  

A press release, issued by the ICJ this morning, states that Ukraine’s suit covers Russian actions dating back to the Orange Revolution of 2004, since when, Ukraine says it has been “subjected to increasing degrees of Russian pressure and intimidation.”

With regards to the UN Terrorism Financing Convention, Ukraine has asked the ICJ to review violations including the following:

The supply of funds, weapons and training to illegal armed groups operating in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkiv and beyond;

The supply of funds, weapons and training to illegal armed groups operating in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkiv and beyond;

The supply of funds, weapons and training to illegal armed groups operating in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkiv and beyond;

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was struck by a Buk surface-to-air missile, fired from occupied territory in July, 2014;

The shelling of civilians, with particular reference to high-casualty attacks in Volnovakha, Mariupol and Kramatorsk.
The bombing of civilians, including in Kharkiv.

And amongst the violations raised in relation to the the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination:

Systemic discrimination against Crimean Tatar and ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea;

Suppression of political and cultural expressions of Crimean Tatar identity;

Perpetuating and tolerating a campaign of disappearances and murders of Crimean Tatars;

Silencing of Crimean Tatar and pro-Ukrainian media;
Suppression of language use and education.

RFE/RL’s Christopher Miller reported last night that, during ameeting with Mustafa Dzhemilev, MP and former leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, now barred from returning to his home peninsula, President Petro Poroshenko said that “Russia must pay the price for its aggression.”

“For three years, Russia has been committing the illegal annexation of Crimea, illegal occupation of the east of our country in the territory of [the] Donetsk and Luhansk regions, [and] implementing the policy of elimination and discrimination in Crimea.”

The lawsuit has been expected by Ukraine watchers for some time, and RFE/RL was told that the case amounted to three years of work:

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariana Betsa told RFE/RL that the lawsuit was the result of three years of “titanic work” by Ukrainian authorities. It is the first lawsuit filed with the ICJ by Kyiv, which has sent at least four lawsuits against Russia to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Ukraine is aware that the ICJ may not consider the lawsuit for years, if ever, Betsa said.

“But we have hope,” she said, adding that it is “inevitable” that Russia will bear responsibility “for crimes it has committed.”

Reuters reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry has said that it has reviewed the claims made in the Ukrainian suit, but that “Kiev had not shown interest in dialogue with Moscow.”

It added that it had sought answers from Ukraine about how the rights of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine were observed but that Ukraine had declined to discuss the issue in detail.

Russia will “use all available means of legal defence against the suit,” Reuters reports.

— Pierre Vaux