Copyright © 2024

The work of Euromaidan Press is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation

When referencing our materials, please include an active hyperlink to the Euromaidan Press material and a maximum 500-character extract of the story. To reprint anything longer, written permission must be acquired from [email protected].

Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Legal battle: How Ukraine sues Russia in international courts

Тіла пасажирів рейсового автобусу, які були вбиті внаслідок ракетного удару російських гібридних сил. Загинуло 12 (за іншими даними 13) людей, ще 18 були поранені. Донеччина, околиця міста Волновахи, 13 січня 2015 року
Bodies of the bus passengers killed in the rocket attack of Russian hybrid forces on the outskirts of Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast on 13 January 2015. 12 civilians were killed (13 according to other sources), 18 wounded in the attack.
Legal battle: How Ukraine sues Russia in international courts
Article by: Oleksiy Vynohradov
Translated by: Yuri Zoria

 There are quite a few international judicial instances in Europe and each court has its own jurisdiction. And it is not so easy to puzzle out differences between them. Ukraine had filed lawsuits in all those courts. RFE/RL’s radio Donbas.Realii has put together a review of Ukrainian state-level legal actions for damage and casualties of war, in which Russia is the defendant.

The largest number of Ukrainian lawsuits against Russia are filed in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). According to the official website of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the country has lodged there two actions for human rights violations in Crimea, two more for those in eastern Ukraine, and one lawsuit for the abduction of orphans and children with disabilities by representatives of the LDNR groups (Russia-run sham statelets of the Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” – Ed.) and the illegal transfer of those children to Russian territory. These suits were filed in 2014-2015.

In late 2018, Ukraine filed another international claim against Russia for violating the rights of political prisoners. And in early 2019, for violating the rights of captured Ukrainian naval sailors. All the cases are at different stages of the proceeding.

Additionally, individual citizens file their claims with the ECHR. For example, to recover damages caused in the course of the armed conflict in the Donbas. However, individual complaints are not currently being considered. Oleh Tarasenko, a senior strategic lawyer at the “Right to Defense” charity, says, they won’t until the court makes a decision in Ukraine’s international lawsuit against Russia and determines who exercises effective control over the territory of the ORDLO (“the Certain Areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts,” the official designation of the occupied territories in the east of Ukraine – Ed).

Sponsorship of terrorism, discrimination in Crimea

Рассмотрение иска Украины против России в Международном суде ООН. Гаага, 6 марта 2017 года
Hearing of Ukraine’s claim against Russia in the UN International Court of Justice. The Hague, 6 March 2017

UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) considers one more lawsuit against Russia. Its first claim concerns Russia’s failure to fulfill its international obligations to counter the financing of terrorism.

The main premise of Ukraine is that Russia does nothing to terminate its supply of weapons to the LDNR militants. In this way, the Russian Federation contributed to the attacks of the militants on the civilian population. In particular, to the rocket attack on a bus near Volnovakha, the bombardments of Mariupol and Kramatorsk, as well as the destruction of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

Краматорск, 10 февраля 2015 года. В результате ракетного обстрела города со стороны российских гибридных сил тогда погибли 15 человек и 15 были ранены
Kramatorsk, 10 February 2015. The missile attack by Russian hybrid forces on the city caused deaths of 17 people, 64 more received injuries.


Последствия ракетного обстрела российскими гибридными силами микрорайона «Восточный» Мариуполя, который был осуществлен 24 января 2015 года. Тогда 29 человек погибли и 92 были ранены
The aftermath of a rocket attack on Mariupol’s Skhidnyi micro-district conducted by Russian hybrid forces on 24 January 2015 to claim the lives of 29 civilians and wound 92 more.


Боевик российских гибридных сил держит игрушку, обнаруженную на месте падения обломков «Боинга», сбитого российской установкой «Бук», в результате чего погибли 298 человек, в том числе 80 детей. Донецкая область, близ села Грабово, 19 июля 2014 года
A militant of the Russian hybrid forces holding a toy found at the site where the debris of Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing crashed as the passenger airliner was shot down by the Russian anti-aircraft complex Buk resulting in deaths of 298 people, including 80 children. Hrabove village area, Donetsk Oblast, 19 June 2014.

The second claim concerns Russia’s discrimination of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea. In particular, it is about the banning of the ruling body of the Crimean Tatar community, the Mejlis, and about arrests of activists. Ukraine filed these claims in early 2017. And within a few months, the court imposed provisional measures in the second charge, ordering Russia to refrain from violations of the human rights of the Crimean Tatars and to secure the right to study in the Ukrainian language on the peninsula.

In 2018, Ukraine provided evidence on the claims. According to then Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, the documents were in 29 volumes and weighed more than 90 kilograms.

Russian representatives denied the terrorism sponsorship charges saying that Russian weapons were not shipped to the Donbas and that what was in possession of the LDNR formations were Soviet-made weapons preserved in the mines of Bakhmut and the ones seized from the Ukrainian army. The clarifying question on where the militants acquired the pieces of the newest Russian types of weapons remained unanswered by the representatives of the Kremlin.

However, Russia’s key point was to challenge the jurisdiction of the UN’s International Court of Justice in the case. In November 2019, the court has rejected all Russia’s objections and is going to proceed to direct examination of a case on its merits. It was reported in an editorial by ex-deputy minister Olena Zerkal published last year in late December by “Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.”

Read also: Kyiv working via courts to ‘return Russia to framework of international law’

According to her, Russia now has time until 9 December 2020 to file its counter-memorandum. Ms. Zerkal believes that Ukraine has a good chance to win in these cases and prove in the international judiciary instances that Russia has been violating international law. The only way for the Russian Federation to obstruct that is to withdraw from the case or to make Ukraine somehow withdraw its claim.

Read also: What are Ukraine’s chances of winning against Russia in the International Court of Justice?

«Battle for the seas»

Во время строительства Керченского моста Россия блокировала проход кораблей в украинские порты
Constructing the Kerch bridge, Russia blocked passage of ships to Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdiansk.

Another institution, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), shares the same building in The Hague with the UN Tribunal. And Ukraine also filed one more lawsuit against Russia in the PCA. Kyiv is trying to prove in court that Russia has been illegally using natural resources in the waters of the Black and Azov seas.

Read also: Hague court rules Russia must compensate Ukrainian investors $159 mn for Crimea losses

Among the named violations are the seizure of the Odesa gas field, as well as gas deposits near the Crimean peninsula. Other charges are blocking transit sea traffic in the Kerch Strait, constructing the bridge there, and controlling the fish production in the region.

As earlier in the ICJ, Russia tries to challenge the jurisdiction of the PCA to consider the case. If the court rejects Russia’s objections, the hearing on the merits may begin in 2021.

War crimes

Recently, the Prosecutor-General’s Office of Ukraine (PGO) reported that it had conveyed the report on the forced passportization of ORDLO residents with LDNR-issued passports in order to complement the existing claims filed in the International Criminal Court. This institution deals with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Since 2014, the court has been examining the case “Situation in Ukraine,” dealing with the killings amid the Revolution of Dignity, as well as the further developments in the Crimea and the Donbas.

Read also: International Criminal Court points to direct military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine

The lawsuit has been periodically complemented with new evidence. For example, in late 2019, the PGO submitted materials on the extrajudicial executions of 9 Ukrainian servicemen during the battles of Ilovaisk and Debaltseve to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

Also, human rights organizations provide materials. For example in 2019, the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and the Myrnyi Bereh (“Shore of Peace”) NGO passed to the ICC a report on violent crimes in 2014-2018 committed amid the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine. The report discovers murders of civilians, torture, extrajudicial killings.

Read also: Executed in Donbas: activists present data on 95 extrajudicial killings

So far, the activities of the International Criminal Court are limited to annual reports on the situation in Ukraine. It is unknown when the hearing on Ukraine would start and whether it will start at all since the court considers such cases with less than 1,000 victims when it is proved that a state has no capacity or is not willing to investigate such crimes on its own.

Read more:

Translated by: Yuri Zoria
You could close this page. Or you could join our community and help us produce more materials like this.  We keep our reporting open and accessible to everyone because we believe in the power of free information. This is why our small, cost-effective team depends on the support of readers like you to bring deliver timely news, quality analysis, and on-the-ground reports about Russia's war against Ukraine and Ukraine's struggle to build a democratic society. A little bit goes a long way: for as little as the cost of one cup of coffee a month, you can help build bridges between Ukraine and the rest of the world, plus become a co-creator and vote for topics we should cover next. Become a patron or see other ways to support. Become a Patron!

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here

You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter

Please leave your suggestions or corrections here

    Euromaidan Press

    We are an independent media outlet that relies solely on advertising revenue to sustain itself. We do not endorse or promote any products or services for financial gain. Therefore, we kindly ask for your support by disabling your ad blocker. Your assistance helps us continue providing quality content. Thank you!

    Related Posts