The United Nations’ highest court ruled Friday that it will examine whether Ukraine committed genocide in its Donetsk and Luhansk regions, an accusation at the heart of Russia’s case for its large-scale invasion in 2022.
The ruling was issued in a case brought by Ukraine before the International Court of Justice. The tribunal said that Ukraine’s assertion that there was no credible evidence that Kyiv was “responsible for the genocide” in its Donetsk and Luhansk regions was admissible and that it would examine this allegation on its merits.
The case, which will likely take several months, will provide a legal answer to one of Russia’s main allegations against Ukraine, that kyiv committed genocide against Russian speakers in the country’s east.
In the month of February 2022 speech Announcing the invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin said the goal of this “special military operation,” as Russia called the war, was to “protect people who, for eight years now, have suffered the humiliation and genocide perpetrated.” by the kyiv regime.
Ukraine then denounced Russia’s allegations of genocide, calling them “manipulative.” Shortly after the invasion, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said it served as an excuse for Russia’s “illegal aggression.”
Two days after the Russian attack, Ukraine filed a complaint with the court based in The Hague, Netherlands, arguing that the allegation of genocide was false and that Russia’s use of force against it therefore constituted a violation of the Genocide Convention.
In its ruling Friday, the court rejected jurisdiction over Ukraine’s request as well as its claim that Moscow violated the convention by recognizing Ukraine’s breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine as independent states. But the panel of 16 judges said it would rule on whether Ukraine committed genocide in its Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
In Russia, the court’s decision was celebrated as a victory. The country’s foreign ministry said in a statement statement that the case of Ukraine “collapsed” and that the government in kyiv “put itself in the dock” and “shot itself in the foot”.
But if the court rules in favor of Ukraine, it would reject Russia’s claim that Kiev committed genocide against Russian speakers in the east of the country, which is at the heart of Moscow’s argument in support for the invasion and overall hostility towards the Ukrainian government. The court’s decisions are legally binding, but there is no way to enforce them.
In 2021, the last year before the invasion, 25 people were killed in the eastern areas and 85 injured due to the conflict, according to to a UN report.