Moscow accuses Ukraine of misleading intl court, denies terrorism & racial discrimination claims
Russia has rejected accusations of financing terrorism and discriminating against Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea during hearings in a lawsuit brought by Ukraine in The Hague. Moscow says Kiev is twisting facts and using the trial for political gain.
The Russian delegation at the hearings, which were launched by the International Court of Justice on March 6 and are set to continue until Thursday, argued that the real purpose of the litigation initiated by Ukraine is to entangle the UN court in matters that lie outside its jurisdiction.
“The first goal is to draw the panel into the discussion of the issues that should be tackled by Russia and Ukraine and are clearly outside the court’s competence, such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and the right to self-determination,” Russian Foreign Ministry Legal Department director Roman Kolodkin said, as cited by TASS.
By portraying the armed resistance of eastern Ukrainians against Kiev’s military operation as terrorism, which Russia has been accused of “sponsoring,” the authorities in Kiev are saying, in effect, that the populations of the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk are accomplices to terrorism, Kolodkin told the court on Tuesday.
“Ukraine is misleading the court on the true causes of the tragic developments that are now taking place,” Kolodkin said, noting that the real reason for the uprising in eastern Ukraine was the desire of the local population to “protect themselves from those who took the power as result of the coup d’état in 2014,” which ultimately resulted in the formation of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR).
Kolodkin said that apart from playing the “terrorism” card to initiate international court proceedings, Kiev has offered nothing to substantiate its claims, as no other state entity or organization has recognized the actions of the self-proclaimed republics as acts of terrorism.
“It is not a surprise that Kiev did not manage to accompany its allegations with documents issued by any international organization or a country, which would have characterized the actions by [the DPR] and [the LPR] as terrorist acts,” he said.
The mere fact that the rebels in eastern Ukraine are battling the central government does not make them terrorists, Kolodkin argued. Recognizing that label could, however, set a dangerous precedent, which may have “consequences far beyond this particular case.”
The Russian delegation also denied that Moscow has been arming the rebels, stating that even before the military conflict began, large arsenals from Soviet times were stored in the coal mines of Donbass. Once hostilities began, the outdated weapons were taken and used by anti-Kiev fighters.
Ukraine’s logic in the case could lead to rather absurd conclusions, such as Kiev itself being a “sponsor of terrorism” in Donetsk and Lugansk, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for new challenges and threats, Ilya Rogachev, said at the hearing, noting that until recently, Kiev continued to trade with and fund organizations that have been in effect under the control of rebel authorities.
Moscow also denied that it had played any role in bringing down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, 2014 over eastern Ukraine, which Kiev included as an act of terrorism in its indictment.
The notion was disputed by Rogachev, who stated that “neither the DSB [Dutch Safety Board] nor the JIT [Joint Investigative Team] have arrived at the conclusion the liner was shot down deliberately or that the equipment had been allegedly provided for this particular purpose,” which makes Ukraine’s accusations baseless. The crash cannot be considered an act of terrorism, he argued, and therefore does not fall under the scope of the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which Moscow is accused of violating.
The allegation that the jet was struck by a Buk missile coming from territory under the control of the rebels, which is disputed by Moscow, also should not be considered final, he argued.
“It is noteworthy that in the summer of 2014 Ukraine’s 156th air defense regiment armed with Buk-M1 systems was in the area of the conflict,” Rogachev said, as cited by TASS, noting that the regiment has 17 systems at its disposal.
The claims of racial discrimination against the Tatar and Ukrainian populations in Crimea were dismissed by the Russian representatives as completely unfounded.
Speaking at the hearing, Deputy Director of the Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights Grigory Lukyantsev said that Ukraine “did not manage to provide any primary evidence” to support its allegations of mistreatment, while Russia has been pouring billions of rubles into Crimea’s development, including that of the Crimean Tatar community.
Ukraine filed the lawsuit in the International Court of Justice, accusing Moscow of breaching two international conventions – the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In January, the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the lack of cooperation on behalf of Ukraine to resolve the issue extrajudicially, after it withdrew from bilateral consultations on the issue and took the case to court.
“Ukraine’s main aim – if not the sole one – was not a settlement of some disputes, but search for a pretext for taking Russia to an international court,” the ministry said in a statement at the time.