Ukraine’s legal battle against Russia over allegations of genocide used by Moscow to justify its 2022 invasion resumes today at the United Nations’ highest court.
Hearings at the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, will see Ukraine supported by a record 32 other nations in a major show of support.
Kyiv launched the case shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, arguing that the invasion was based on false claims of genocide against ethnic Russians in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine.
Instead, Kyiv’s lawyers will argue that Moscow had planned genocidal acts against Ukrainians and went on to execute them by launching an invasion and indiscriminately killing Ukrainian civilians.
They want the court to order Russia to halt its invasion and pay reparations.
It comes as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky branded his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a ‘fully fledged Hitler’ in an interview with CBS.
Zelensky said Putin had become a ‘fully fledged Hitler’ and warned of World War Three if Russia could not be defeated in Ukraine
A protester holds a caricature of Putin depicted with a combover and Hitler moustache
A worker carries a cross during a burial ceremony for unidentified persons killed in the Bucha district at the time of the Russian occupation, at a cemetery in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv
Zelensky urged the world to contemplate the consequences of a Russian victory in the war with Ukraine, which he said could bring about World War Three.
And he blamed Russians for constantly re-electing Putin as president for almost a quarter of a century.
‘Russian society has lost respect for the world,’ he said. ‘It elected and re-elected him and raised a second Hitler.
‘If the Russians reach Poland, what will happen next? World War Three?’
The Ukrainian media often refer to Putin as ‘Putler’, likening him to Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
Putin and other Russian officials regularly slur Zelensky as ‘Nazis’, and the Kremlin dictator says his goal in his ‘special military operation’ is to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine.
Zelensky went on to vow that his country’s gradual counteroffensive would not let up when winter comes to Ukraine.
‘[We need] to de-occupy the territory as long as possible and move forward,’ said the Ukrainian president, who is desperately seeking new weapons and ammunition from the West.
‘Even if it’s less than half a mile, or 100 meters, you need to do it.
‘In places where armoured vehicles cannot travel, we fly. If we don’t know how to fly, we will send drones.
‘We must not give Putin a break,’ he concluded.
Filing its case in the International Court of Justice last year, Ukraine said that ‘Russia has turned the Genocide Convention on its head – making a false claim of genocide as a basis for actions on its part that constitute grave violations of the human rights of millions of people across Ukraine.’
Ukraine brought the case to the Hague-based court based on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which both Moscow and Kyiv have ratified.
A man pushes his bike through debris and destroyed Russian military vehicles on a street on April 06, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine
Graffiti depicting Putin with a Hitler moustache is seen
View of the Peace Palace which houses the World Court where Ukraine’s legal battle against Russia over allegations of genocide used by Moscow to justify its 2022 invasion
In an interim ruling in March 2022, the court ordered Russia to halt hostilities in Ukraine, a binding legal ruling that Moscow has flouted as it presses ahead with its devastating attacks on Ukrainian towns and cities.
Hearings this week are expected to see lawyers for Russia argue that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case, while Ukraine will call on judges to press ahead to hearings on the substance of its claims.
In an unprecedented show of international support for Kyiv, 32 of Ukraine’s allies including Canada, Australia and every European Union member nation except Hungary will also make statements in support of Kyiv’s legal arguments.
The United States asked to participate on Ukraine’s side, but the U.N. court’s judges rejected the U.S. request.
The court’s panel of international judges will likely take weeks or months to reach a decision on whether or not the case can proceed.
And even if it does, a final ruling is likely years away.
The International Court of Justice hears disputes between nations over matters of law, unlike the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals criminally responsible for offences including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICC has issued a war crimes arrest warrant for President Putin, accusing him of responsibility for the abduction of Ukrainian children.