The United Nations’ International Court of Justice on Wednesday declined a request by Ukraine for the world body to effectively cut off Russian supplies of funding and weapons to the region, which has seen constant fighting between Kiev government forces and pro-Russian rebels for more than three years.
Judges on the court voted to deny the request to label Russia as a sponsor of terrorism, and stop it from supporting rebel fighters, due to a lack of evidence.
Moscow has mobilized military forces along its border with Ukraine, but there has not been any direct connection between the Kremlin and the pro-Russia rebel groups fighting across the border. Moscow has denied backing rebel forces in the region.
The court did, however, approve a provisional order for Russia to respect the Tatars’ ethnic rights in the Crimean Peninsula and abide by international laws.
The two sides have been fighting since the Kremlin-backed government in Kiev was removed from power in February 2014 — a month before Russia annexed Crimea in a widely condemned move by the United States and other European states.
Through its support of non-governmental separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine, Kiev argued, the Russian government supports terrorism.
“Ukraine respectfully requests the court to adjudge and declare that the Russian Federation bears international responsibility … for the acts of terrorism committed by its proxies in Ukraine,” Kiev wrote in its application to the court, citing the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
Ukraine said Russia has violated the convention by “supplying funds, including in-kind contributions of weapons and training, to illegal armed groups that engage in acts of terrorism in Ukraine.”
Although the court refused Kiev’s request, it encouraged both governments to abide by international law in resolving problems that arise from the conflict — including a U.N. Security Council resolution and the Minsk Protocol cease-fire from September 2014.
“The court expects the parties, through individual and joint efforts, to work for the full implementation of [the resolutions] in order to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine,” the judges wrote.
“With regard to the situation in Crimea, the Russian Federation must, in accordance with [the convention], refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions,” the court wrote, saying Russia must also “ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language.”
“Both parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve,” it added.
By Doug G. Ware