Court Rejects Ukrainian Call for Russia to Halt Rebel Backing

  • International court says financing terrorism claim not proved
  • Russia ordered not to restrict rights of Tatars in Crimea

The International Court of Justice rejected a Ukrainian request for an order labeling Russia a sponsor of terrorism for its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

While many civilians have been killed or injured in the conflict, Ukraine hasn’t presented “evidence which affords a sufficient basis to find it plausible” that Russia is financing terrorism in rebel-held areas with “intention and knowledge,” the court in The Hague said in a ruling published Wednesday.

The court granted Ukraine’s request for a provisional order requiring Russia not to discriminate against Crimea’s ethnic Tatar community, saying there was an “imminent risk” of “irreparable prejudice” to their rights since the 2014 Russian annexation of the Black Sea peninsula. Russia must “refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions,” and make education available in the Ukrainian language in Crimea, the court said.

The court’s rulings are binding on states, though it has no power to enforce them. Ukraine lodged the case in January, accusing Russia of breaching international conventions against financing terrorism and racial discrimination. It sought an order for Russia to “stop the supply of weapons” across its border and “stop supporting illegal armed groups.”

Russia denies sending troops and weapons to support rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine, and argues that Crimea voted to join Russia in a referendum. That vote wasn’t internationally recognized, and the U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions in response to the annexation.

‘Successful Hearing’

The jurisdiction of the court has been recognized in both lawsuits and “we hope for a successful hearing of these cases,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said during a visit to London, according to a statement on the presidential website.

Ukraine had also called on the court to declare Russia responsible for the 2014 shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, in which 298 people died. The court didn’t comment on the MH17 case in its ruling.

The court’s decision is “positive” and Ukraine has “good prospects” to “prove our position” at future hearings on the merits of the case, including Russia’s responsibility for downing flight MH17, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal said in televised remarks to reporters after the hearing.

A peace agreement negotiated by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in February 2015 in Minsk, Belarus, has stalled as fighting continues in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The court ordered Ukraine and Russia to “work for the full implementation” of the Minsk accord to achieve a “peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

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