Ukraine has filed a suit against Russia at the U.N.’s highest court, rejecting Moscow’s claim it invaded its neighbor to prevent genocide and asking judges to order an immediate halt to Russian military operations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has asserted that Ukraine committed genocide in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine and said the invasion was therefore justified to end it.
In a filing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in which it dismissed the genocide allegation, Ukraine asked judges to order so-called “provisional measures” to protect Ukraine. The ICJ confirmed the filing on Sunday.
The ICJ is the United Nations’ court for resolving disputes between nations and Kyiv is saying the two sides have a dispute over the meaning of the 1948 Genocide Convention, a treaty they have both signed.
It asked the court to rule on the disagreement over “the existence of acts of genocide” and Russia’s claim to legal authority to take military action in and against Ukraine.
Cases before the highest U.N. court generally take years to go to trial, but hearings on provisional measures have in the past been held within weeks of a filing.
Ukraine asked judges to order Russia to “immediately suspend the military operations commenced on 24 February 2022 that have as their stated purpose and objective the prevention and punishment of a claimed genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine”.
Ukraine has in the past sought to involve another court in The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC), which handles war crime allegations against individuals.
Following the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and subsequent fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces, Kyiv accepted ICC jurisdiction for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on its territory since February 2014.
In December 2020, the office of the prosecutor announced it had reason to believe war crimes and other crimes were committed during the conflict.
A formal request to open a full investigation has not been filed with judges, but ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on Friday expressed his concern over the Russian invasion and said the court may investigate alleged crimes arising from the current situation.