Ukraine, Russia clash at top UN court
September 18, 2023 11:24 AM
Russia and Ukraine will face off at the International Court of Justice from Monday over Moscow's claim of "genocide" in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for last year's invasion.
Representatives from the two warring nations will go head-to-head at the sumptuous Peace Palace in The Hague over whether the top UN court has the jurisdiction to order a halt to Russia's ongoing military action.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the February 24, 2022 invasion, part of his reasoning was that pro-Russian people in eastern Ukraine had been "subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kyiv regime".
Two days into the invasion, Ukraine filed suit at the ICJ, "emphatically denying" this and arguing that Russia's use of "genocide" as a pretext went against the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.
In March 2022, the ICJ sided with Ukraine, ordering Russia to "immediately suspend" its military action.
But this judgement was a so-called "preliminary ruling", pending a decision on whether the court is actually competent to rule on the content of the matter.
The court's decisions are binding although it has no "police force" to enforce them.
According to Russia, the ICJ does not have jurisdiction because Ukraine's case falls outside the scope of the UN Genocide Convention.
It will flesh out its reasoning further on Monday, with Ukraine's response on Tuesday. It is the first time a Russian representative will address the court in this case, previously arguing that it had insufficient time to prepare arguments.
More than 30 other countries -- all Western allies of Ukraine -- will also have the chance to make statements in support of Kyiv. The ICJ dismissed a bid by the United States to join the case.
The court, created after World War II to deal with disputes between UN member states when they cannot resolve matters themselves, could take months to decide whether it has jurisdiction.
The ICJ is also dealing with a separate case filed by Ukraine alleging that Russia backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine for years before the invasion.
Moscow says more Ukrainian drones downed over Crimea
Russia said it repelled Ukrainian drone attacks over several parts of Crimea, outer Moscow and two border regions on Sunday.
Crimea has been targeted by Ukraine throughout Russia's offensive but attacks there have recently intensified as Kyiv vows to recapture the Black Sea peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
And since Ukraine launched its counter-offensive in early June, Russia has weathered waves of drone attacks that have sporadically damaged buildings, including in the capital Moscow.
Russian officials have downplayed their significance.
"Drones were intercepted over the western, southwestern, northwestern and eastern parts of the Crimean peninsula; Istra and Domodedovo districts of Moscow region, Belgorod and Voronezh regions," Russia's defence ministry said on Telegram in the round-up of Sunday's attacks.
The drones "have been thwarted", it added.
Most of the attacks were early Sunday.
Late Sunday, three drones were destroyed over southwestern Crimea, as was a solitary drone over the Belgorod border region, defence ministry updates said.
The Telegram updates throughout the day totalled 13 drones destroyed, including nine over Crimea.
They did not say whether there had been any casualties or damage in the attacks.
In their Sunday round-up, the Russian ministry claimed that production workshops at a military vehicle repairs plant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv had been hit.
The buildings, "where the repair and restoration of armoured vehicles of the armed forces of Ukraine were carried out, were hit by a missile strike," it said.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov had said earlier in his own Sunday round-up that shortly after midnight, Russia "launched a missile attack on the city of Kharkiv", but claimed it was a civilian business that had been hit.
"Missiles hit the building of a civilian enterprise. There was a fire," he said on Telegram.