Top UN court to hear Russia objections to Kyiv case

THE HAGUE (AFP): The UN’s top court will hear objections by Russia next month after Kyiv dragged it before the Hague-based body over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

Kyiv accuses Moscow of falsely using allegations of genocide in eastern Ukraine to justify the February 24 invasion, and of planning genocide itself.

Judges last year issued a preliminary order telling Moscow to suspend its military operations, which are still ongoing in Ukraine.

“The International Court of Justice… will hold public hearings on the preliminary objections raised by the Russian Federation in the case,” the ICJ said in a statement.

Russia will lodge its objections on Monday, September 18 while Ukraine will give counter-arguments the following day.

On Wednesday, more than 30 other countries — all Western allies of Ukraine — will also be given a chance to make statements.

The ICJ in June gave 32 countries the green light to lend support to Kyiv by allowing them to “intervene” in the case.

However, the ICJ dismissed a bid by the United States to join the case.

The allies’ interventions mainly concern whether the ICJ has jurisdiction in the case, a process that could take months or even years.

A second round of oral arguments will then follow on September 25 and September 27.

Ukraine has alleged that Russia breached the UN genocide convention by its stated justification early in the war that it invaded to halt what it called genocide in pro-Russian areas of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow had previously snubbed the hearings, saying in a written filing the ICJ “did not have jurisdiction” because Kyiv’s request fell outside the scope of the 1948 Genocide Convention on which it based its case.

The ICJ’s order in March last year that Russia must stop its invasion was just a preliminary ruling, pending a decision on whether it is competent to deal with it or not.

The ICJ was created after World War II to deal with disputes between UN member states.

Its decisions are binding although it has no means to enforce them.

The ruling comes as the court is dealing with a separate case filed by Ukraine alleging that Russia backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine for years before the invasion.