International

Ukraine files ‘terrorism’ case against Russia at world court

THE HAGUE: Ukraine has urged the UN’s top court to order Russia to pay damages for attacks on civilians during its bloody conflict with separatist pro-Russia rebels, accusing Moscow of “sponsoring terrorism”, officials said Tuesday.

In its filing, Kiev accused Moscow of “intervening militarily in Ukraine, financing acts of terrorism, and violating the human rights of millions of Ukraine’s citizens,” the International Court of Justice said.

It has asked the tribunal to “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,” the court added in a statement.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, accuses its neighbour Russia of triggering unrest by separatist pro-Russian rebels in retaliation for the ousting of Kiev’s Moscow-backed president in February 2014.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea in March 2014 and fierce fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine between Kiev’s forces and pro-Russia rebels.

Sporadic violence still flares up despite several ceasefire accords, and nearly 10,000 people are said to have died.

Kiev is also calling on the tribunal to order Russia to halt all shipments of arms and money destined for rebel groups into Ukrainian territory.

Russia had also “brazenly defied” the UN Charter by seizing Crimea, and then attempted to “legitimise its act of aggression” by engineering an “illegal referendum,” the filing said.

“Russia must pay its price for the aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Monday just after Kiev launched the proceedings with the court based in The Hague.

Moscow has long denied arming the rebels and hit back that the case was just motivated “by political interests” adding Kiev had “shown a lack of will to hold a concrete dialogue.”

“Russia has always condemned in the strongest manner any signs of terrorism and actively fights against it,” the foreign ministry added in a statement.

– Funding terror –

The court, founded in 1945 to rule in disputes between nations, will now have to decide whether to take up the case. And the legal proceedings are unlikely to have any immediate effect on the ground.

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

Kiev has asked the tribunal to declare that Moscow has violated its obligations under the Terrorism Financing Convention and an international treaty against racial discrimination.

It urges the tribunal to order Moscow to “immediately and unconditionally cease and desist from all support, including the provision of money, weapons, and training, to illegal armed groups that engage in acts of terrorism in Ukraine.”

It also asks that Moscow be ordered:

– to ensure that illegal arms are withdrawn from eastern Ukraine

– to control its borders to stop acts of “financing of terrorism including the supply of weapons”

– to “make full reparation” for the shelling of civilians in the eastern Ukrainian towns of Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Volnovakha and Kharkiv, as well as for the shooting down of MH17

– to protect the rights of “all groups in Russian-occupied Crimea, including Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians.”

A Dutch-led international investigation found that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made missile in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine, launched from a field in rebel-held territory.

All 298 on board the routine flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, mostly Dutch citizens, were killed.

Moscow said it would “use all means available for its legal defence” if the ICJ agrees to hear the case.

Any proceedings are likely to be lengthy, but the decision would be binding and without appeal.

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