17:44 22.02.2020

Arbitral Tribunal rejects Russia's attempts to avoid responsibility for its behavior in Sea of Azov, Kerch Strait – MFA

4 min read
Arbitral Tribunal rejects Russia's attempts to avoid responsibility for its behavior in Sea of Azov, Kerch Strait – MFA

An arbitral tribunal constituted under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) issued a major ruling in Ukraine's case against the Russian Federation, the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine has reported.

"The Tribunal rejected Russia's position that it lacks jurisdiction over Ukraine's case and determined that it would hear significant aspects of Ukraine's claims, including those related to Russia's violations of UNCLOS in the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov," the Foreign Ministry said in its comment on Friday.

The MFA stressed that since 2014, however, Russia has excluded Ukraine from its own maritime areas and exploited Ukraine's natural resources, including fisheries and vast oil and gas reserves. Russia has also disregarded environmental protections and harmed international navigation, including by illegally building the Kerch Bridge, harassing international shipping, and seizing Ukrainian jack-up drilling rigs.

Today, the Tribunal by its decision rejected Russia's effort to escape accountability for its conduct in the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait.

"The Tribunal agreed with Ukraine that Russia's claim of an internal waters status was not a proper subject for a jurisdictional objection and should be decided at the merits stage of the case. The ruling means that Russia will face legal scrutiny for its illegal construction of the Kerch Bridge and its harassment of vessels in the Sea of Azov, both of which harm international navigation to Ukrainian ports," the ministry said.

In ruling that Ukraine's case will move forward to the merits phase, the Tribunal concluded that it could not hear a portion of claims relating to Ukraine's rights as a coastal state in the waters near Crimea. At the same time the Tribunal concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over those claims because it does not have authority to address issues concerning sovereignty over Crimea.

"Thus, the Tribunal's decision supports the international consensus, and the Tribunal itself made clear that it does not endorse Russia's claim of sovereignty. Today's ruling is a rebuke to Russia's view that it's unilateral actions are immune from legal challenge," the message reads.

The ministry said that as a result of today's ruling, Ukraine will present its case on the merits before the law of the sea Tribunal. After further filings, the Tribunal will hold a hearing on the merits at which Ukraine will present its full case.

According to the Rules of Procedure, the Award will be publicly available after the Parties have expressed their possible objections to the presence of confidential information in the decision, but no later than 21 days after the decision.

As reported, in 2016, Ukraine filed a lawsuit against the Russian Federation before the UN International Court of Justice on violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in the framework of which arbitration was established to consider this case. On May 22, 2019, Russia filed an objection with the International Arbitration Tribunal regarding its jurisdiction to consider Ukraine's lawsuit against the Russian Federation.

In November 2019, the UN International Court of Justice recognized its jurisdiction in the case of Ukraine v. Russia on violation of two conventions by Russia - on combating the financing of terrorism and on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. Thus, the court ruled in favor of Ukraine, and now can proceed to the consideration of the case in essence.

In addition, in May 2019, the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, located in Hamburg, decided to oblige the Russian Federation to release three Ukrainian ships - the Yany Kapu tugboat and two boats Berdiansk and Nikopol, and 24 Ukrainian sailors, captured by it in the area of the Kerch Strait in November 2018.

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