THE HAGUE - The United Nations’ top court for disputes between states on Friday said it has jurisdiction to hear a lawsuit filed by Ukraine against Russia for supporting pro-Russian separatists, rejecting Moscow’s call for the case to be thrown out.
In reading a summary of the ruling, Presiding Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf said conditions had been met for the case to be heard in full, rejecting Russian objections.
In a victory for Ukraine, the court found unanimously that it has jurisdiction on the basis of anti-terrorism and anti-discrimination treaties to hear the case over Russia’s alleged support for separatists in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
In a hearing at the International Court of Justice in June, Moscow had asked judges to dismiss the suit, saying Kiev was using it as pretext for a ruling on the legality of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Covert Russian forces seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 shortly after a pro-Russian president was toppled in a popular uprising. Moscow then organized a referendum and annexed the territory.
Pro-Russian separatists also launched a revolt in another part of Ukraine, the east, where a conflict has killed more than 13,000 people and remains violent despite a ceasefire that halted full-scale combat in 2015. Moscow denies Western accusations that it sent ground troops, as well as weapons and funding, to assist the rebels.
The ICJ, or world court, is the leading global court for disputes between nations. A ruling on Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine would set a precedent that could impact other cases dealing with Russia’s alleged link to the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine.
Kiev says Russia’s support for separatist forces violated a U.N. convention which bans the funding of terrorist groups.
A Dutch-led international investigation team found that the airliner was shot down with a Russian missile, and has charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder. All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the plane crashed in rebel territory. Russia denies blame.