UN’s highest court orders Russia to immediately halt invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine says Russia has falsely claimed acts of genocide against Russian-speaking people in Donetsk and Luhansk to justify its invasion

The UN's highest court has ordered Russia to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine, and has said it is "profoundly concerned" at the use of force by Moscow and at the scale of the human tragedy unfolding as a result.

The president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Judge Joan E Donoghue, was granting "provisional measures" on Wednesday on foot of a legal action instigated by Ukraine earlier this month aimed at halting Russia's three-week-old pummelling of the country.

In a three-pronged ruling Judge Donoghue instructed the Kremlin to immediately halt the invasion of Ukraine that it began on February 24th in a major escalation of the conflict sparked by its annexation of Crimea in 2014. It is now the largest military conflict in Europe since the second World War.

She also ordered Russian leaders to ensure any other military or irregular units or agents supported or controlled by it in Ukraine also adhere to the court’s order, which she said was a binding international legal obligation with immediate effect.

Judge Donoghue ordered both of the parties to the case, Ukraine and Russia, to refrain from any “aggravating actions” which might prevent the provisional measures from having their desired effect of reducing the fighting and loss of life between the two sides.

Wednesday’s ruling by the ICJ addressed only the question of whether or not provisional measures were necessary, but the judges have not yet addressed the substance of Ukraine’s claim against Russia which, even in the current climate, could take a number of years to adjudicate.

Genocide

Ukraine contends Russia has falsely claimed that acts of genocide have been carried out by Kyiv against Russian-speaking people in Donetsk and Luhansk in the east of the country, and that this has been used by Moscow to justify its invasion.

Ukraine denies any such genocide has occurred and in turn accuses the Russians of “planning acts of genocide in Ukraine” and of “intentionally killing and inflicting serious injury” on Ukrainians, contrary to Article II of the Genocide Convention.

Russia was not represented on the opening day of the ICJ case on March 7th because, it said afterwards, the case against it was “absurd”.

However, Judge Donoghue revealed on Wednesday that Russia had subsequently written to the ICJ setting out what it saw as the court’s lack of jurisdiction in the case brought by Ukraine.