Ukraine launches today its case against Russia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, when judges begin hearing Kiev’s request to order Moscow to halt support for pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine launched the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which handles disputes between states, in January.
ICJ judges hear disputes between states, and cases can take years to pass through the court.
Although the court’s rulings are final and binding, it has no means of enforcement.
Ukraine accuses Russia of violating UN conventions against terrorism and discrimination by supporting groups in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
Russia has repeatedly denied sending troops or military equipment to eastern Ukraine and is expected to challenge the jurisdiction of the court.
Tensions have escalated since a group of Ukrainian politicians and military veterans last month launched a rail blockade of shipments, including coal, from separatist-controlled areas, causing economic pain on both sides.
Ukraine says in its filing that separatist forces, backed by Moscow, have carried out terrorist acts. It cites the bombardment of residential areas and the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014, which killed 298 passengers and crew.
In September 2016, a six-country investigative team led by the Netherlands said the plane had been shot down with a Russian-manufactured Buk surface-to-air missile from an area controlled by pro-Russian forces. The team had not yet identified suspects.
Russia has dismissed the findings of the Dutch-led international prosecutors as biased and politically motivated.
The United States and other Western powers have imposed economic sanctions on Moscow because of its interference in Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it “intends to employ all possible means of legal defense” in the case.
A senior Russian official told state-run news agency TASS that the Russian delegation will consist of 35 people.
In its filing, Ukraine says it “has been subjected to increasing degrees of Russian pressure and intimidation.”
Since 2014, it said, Russia stepped up its interference in Ukraine’s affairs, “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.”
Ukraine also accuses Moscow of mistreatment of Crimea’s Tatar and ethnic Ukrainian populations since it annexed the area in 2014.
The first round of hearings, expected to run March 6-9, will largely consist of procedural matters. Ukraine will speak today, while Russia will speak tomorrow.
The U.N. court takes years to hear cases. Although its rulings are final and binding, it has no means of enforcement.
Georgia brought a similar case against Russia, but the court ruled in 2011 that it had no jurisdiction. Experts said Russia is likely to argue that the court does not have jurisdiction in this case, as well.