20:10 31.08.2018

Kyiv rejects Russian arguments at international tribunal in suit alleging Russian violations of UNCLOS

3 min read

Ukraine has expressed its readiness to respond to arguments made by Russia about the jurisdiction of the international tribunal hearing the case about Russia's alleged violations of the Convention of the Law of the Sea.

"On August 31, 2018, the tribunal, which is hearing the case Ukraine versus Russia about compliance with the 1982United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), revealed a procedural order that establishes that the tribunal must first rule on objections to jurisdiction made by Russia," Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued on Friday regarding the jurisdiction determination phase of the case involving rights of a state with coasts on the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait (Ukraine versus Russia).

The statement says that on February 19, 2018 Ukraine submitted a memorandum to the tribunal proving that Russia had violated Ukraine's sovereign rights in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

"It is emphasized in the memorandum that from 2014 Russia has been illegally preventing Ukraine from exercising its rights as a littoral state, that Russia used and continues to exploit the sovereign resources of Ukraine for its own needs and usurped Ukraine's right to regulate its own coastal regions," the statement says.

Instead of responding to the essence of Ukraine's arguments, Russia on May 22, 2018, provided its objections about the jurisdiction of the tribunal, which is determined by the tribunal's charter. In compliance with normal practice, the tribunal decided to first consider the objections rather than rule on the essence of the case.

Ukrainian diplomats said they do not believe Russia's objections about jurisdiction are grounded and will be accepted by the tribunal.

The primary objection of Russia is that Kyiv's complaints do not relate to UNCLOS and are only an attempt to receive a decision confirming Ukraine's sovereignty over Crimea.

"Russia's objection obviously distorts Ukraine's suit. Ukraine submitted the case to arbitration about rights of a littoral state in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, which are sealed and stipulated by UNCLOS. The fact that Ukraine exercises its rights to the sea has been recognized by the international community for more than two decades after declaring independence. The ability of Ukraine to exercise its rights is now the crux of the case and no one disagrees with this," the statement said.

Ukrainian diplomats emphasize that the above is the main function of the system of resolving disputes under UNCLOS – to review complaints of the sort submitted by Ukraine, including the attempt of one government-actor to interfere and usurp the maritime rights of another government-actor.

According to Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, other objections by Russia about jurisdiction are groundless.

"For example, Russia's second objection about jurisdiction is that the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait are not in the jurisdiction of UNCLOS because Ukraine and Russia agreed that these maritime zones are "mutual internal waters," the statement says.

Ukrainian diplomats hold that Russia, in fact, seized Ukrainian gas fields in the Sea of Azov, aiming to unilaterally cancel Ukrainian licenses for such gas fields, unilaterally build a bridge and other structures along the Kerch Strait and impose unilateral restrictions on ship sizes allowed to pass through the strait.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said it is ready to respond to all the objections of Russia to the tribunal, and remains confident that Russia will be held to account for "a defiant violation of international maritime law."