Russia hit out at Ukraine at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday, as the two warring countries squared off in a legal case over Moscow’s claim that “genocide” in eastern Ukraine was a pretext for last year’s invasion.
Moscow’s representative, Gennady Kuzmin, said Ukraine’s case that Russia “abused” the United Nations Genocide Convention as a reason to launch its war against its neighbour in February 2022 “couldn’t be further from the truth”.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24 last year, part of his reasoning was that pro-Russian people in eastern Ukraine had been “subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kyiv regime”.
Two days into the invasion, Ukraine filed a suit at the ICJ, “emphatically denying” this and arguing that Russia’s use of “genocide” as a pretext went against the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.
Mere “statements” about genocide are not admissible under international law including the Genocide Convention, Kuzmin contended.
Sitting only metres from the Ukrainian delegation, Kuzmin said: “As to expressions of concerns regarding the threat of genocide, they were unsurprising considering the policies of Kyiv regime, which were firmly entrenched in the history, doctrines and practices of Nazism.”
Ukraine’s legal position is “hopelessly flawed” and “at odds with the longstanding jurisprudence” of the court, he concluded.
The case, being heard in the sumptuous Peace Palace in The Hague, is over whether the top UN court has the jurisdiction to order a halt to Russia’s ongoing military action.
Kuzmin urged the court to throw out the case, arguing that the UN Genocide Convention is about the “prevention and punishment” of genocide, neither of which apply to Ukraine’s case.
“Ukraine is not accusing Russia of committing genocide. Ukraine is also not accusing Russia of failing to prevent or punish genocide,” he argued.
“On the contrary, Ukraine insists no genocide has occurred. That alone should be enough to reject the case because […] if there was no genocide there cannot be a violation of the Genocide Convention.”