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ICJ Rejects Kyiv's Call To Halt Russian Support For Separatists

Russian representative Roman Kolodkin (left) and others sit at The International Court of Justice in The Hague last month.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague has refused Ukraine’s request to impose provisional measures against Russia to block what Kyiv says is Russia's monetary and military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

But the court on April 19 did issue a provisional ruling calling for a halt to what it says is "racial discrimination" against Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in Russia-occupied Crimea.

"The conditions required for the indication of provisional measures," as requested by Ukraine in order to block Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, "are not met," the United Nation’s highest court said in its April 19 ruling, read out by ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

Moscow seized control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and has supported the separatists in a war that has killed more than 9,900 people in eastern Ukraine since April of that year.

When it lodged its case in January, Kyiv said that Russia has stepped up its interference in Ukraine's affairs since 2014, "intervening militarily…financing acts of terrorism and violating the human rights of millions of Ukraine's citizens, including, for all too many, their right to life."

It said Ukraine was seeking "full reparations for...acts of terrorism the Russian Federation has caused, facilitated or supported," citing bombardments of residential areas and the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which killed all 298 passengers and crew.

Racial Discrimination

While Ukraine was unsuccessful in its attempt to have Russian funding of the separatists temporarily halted, the ICJ did rule in its favor on part of the case involving an international treaty against racial discrimination.

The court, which handles disputes between states, granted a provisional ruling for Russia to stop what the court described as "racial discrimination" against Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea since Russia's takeover of the peninsula, which followed the deployment of troops and a referendum denounced as illegitimate by Kyiv, the United States, and a total of 100 UN member countries.

"The Court finds that Russia must refrain from imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis, and ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language," an ICJ statement issued after the ruling said.

Olena Zerkal, Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, told reporters outside the court that even though the ruling was mixed, it was still a legal victory for Ukraine because the panel of judges said they think the court, as of this point, has jurisdiction to hear both cases..

"For us, this decision of the court is a positive one," she said. "We proved our position and we see that we have a very good perspective for the hearings on merits and we are going to actually put forward all our intentions."

Russian delegates did not immediately comment at the court.

Ukraine has asked the court's 15 judges to rule that "the Russian Federation bears international responsibility" for "acts of terrorism committed by its proxies in Ukraine."

Moscow rejects the allegations. It has said the terrorism claims are "neither factual nor legal" and argued that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction over the case.

Russia has denied sending troops or military equipment to eastern Ukraine, despite what Kyiv and Western countries say is incontrovertible evidence.

Ukraine lodged the request for provisional protection measures because it can take months for the ICJ to even decide whether it will hear a case.

In that interim application, Ukraine had asked for an urgent court order demanding Russia refrain from "any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute" or make it more difficult to resolve, including a halt to the alleged pumping of money, weapons, equipment and personnel into the east.

The United States, European Union, and other countries have imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its seizure of Crimea and its interference in Ukraine, which has badly damaged Moscow's relations with both the West and Ukraine.

Although the ICJ’s rulings are final and binding, it has no means of enforcement.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service