Ukraine’s allies back its arguments against Russia before the U.N.’s highest court

Peace Palace in The Hague, which houses the International Court of Justice
Lawyers for Ukraine and Russia are facing off at the International Court of Justice in The Hague over Moscow’s invasion, which is nearing the 19-month mark.
(Peter Dejong / Associated Press)

Ukraine’s international allies filed into the United Nations’ top court Wednesday to support Kyiv’s case against Russia, which alleges that Moscow twisted the international convention on genocide to manufacture a pretext for its invasion last year.

The hearing came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that Russia was “weaponizing” everything from food and energy to abducted children in its war against Ukraine — and warned world leaders that the same could happen to them.

An unprecedented 32 states were making brief legal arguments Wednesday to the 16-judge panel at the International Court of Justice, which is holding hearings into Moscow’s assertions that the court does not have jurisdiction and should throw out Ukraine’s case.


Kyiv filed its case two days after Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022, invasion. It argues that the attack was based on false claims by Russia of Ukrainian acts of genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine insists that the court has jurisdiction. Kyiv’s allies supported that stance Wednesday.

Legal representatives, including Australian Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue, told judges that the case was about a dispute over the 1948 Genocide Convention that should be settled by the court.

Six Ukrainian deputy defense ministers have been fired following the dismissal two weeks ago of their boss in a procurement corruption scandal.

Sept. 18, 2023

While most of the national presentations in the court’s ornate Great Hall of Justice were dry legal arguments, Canada’s representative, Alan Kessel, underscored what was at stake.

“Canada and the Netherlands recall the profound consequences of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in immense human suffering,” Kessel said. “It is against this backdrop that we intervene as part of our commitment to the protection and promotion of the rules-based international order and the peaceful settlement of disputes in which this court plays a vital role.”


The court’s panel of international judges will likely take weeks or months to reach a decision on whether the case can proceed. Even if it does, a final ruling could be years away.