22 Feb 2020 15:02

Russian Foreign Ministry satisfied that arbiters of Hague tribunal on Ukraine's lawsuit unanimously backed Russia's 'key argument'

MOSCOW. Feb 22 (Interfax) - Russia is satisfied with the fact that the international arbitration tribunal in the Hague took into account Russia's key argument in the case Ukraine vs the Russian Federation on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on February 21, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"The Russian Federation is satisfied with the fact that the decision that was made takes into account our key argument, this lawsuit was really an attempt to prove Ukraine's nonexistent sovereignty over Crimea. Obviously, this arbitration needed to determine first what state is coastal to Crimea to consider Ukraine's claims. However, the sea tribunal, formed to resolve issues on 'the interpretation or enforcement' of the 1982 Convention, has no right to determine to what state the ground belongs. It is vitally important, and the arbiters supported us on that, and they did that unanimously," according to a report posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website on Saturday.

The tribunal's conclusions on Russia's other objections will be thoroughly analyzed and taken into account when Russia's response memorandum on the essence of the dispute is drafted, which is to be submitted to the arbitration by August 20, 2020, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

On February 21, the arbitration tribunal in the Hague issued a decision on the case Ukraine vs the Russian Federation. The case was initiated by Ukraine in 2016 on the basis of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 Convention) "to protect its allegedly violated rights in the Black Sea, the Sea and Azov and in the Kerch Strait," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

This stage was limited to the hearing of Russia's preliminary objections regarding the arbitration's jurisdiction to hear Ukrainian claims on their merits, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"The Russian Federation hopes that the arbitration tribunal will fully take into account Russia's position at the next stage of the hearing of this case and will eventually decline all Ukrainian claims," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry earlier said the Arbitral Tribunal, set up under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), had recognized its jurisdiction to hear Ukraine's claim against Russia concerning its coastal rights in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait.

"The tribunal declined Russia's position on the absence of jurisdiction over Ukraine's claim and resolved that it will consider essential aspects of Ukraine's claim, including those related to Russia's violation of UNCLOS in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

"The tribunal agreed with Ukraine that Russia's claiming the status of internal waters is not a proper reason to deny jurisdiction and that this matter must be decided while the claim is being heard on its merits," the ministry said.

However, the tribunal concluded that it has no jurisdiction over the claim concerning Ukraine's rights as a coastal state in waters near Crimea as it has no jurisdiction to determine the sovereignty of the peninsula.

The ministry said Ukraine will now begin preparations to present the case on its merits to the Arbitral Tribunal, which will hold such hearings after studying the parties' written pleadings.

In accordance with procedural requirements, the tribunal's decision will be published on the Permanent Court of Arbitration Case Repository, after which the parties may voice objections due to the presence of any confidential information in it, but no later than 21 days after it is issued.

Ukraine filed a claim accusing Russia of violating UNCLOS in 2016, following which the Arbitral Tribunal was set up. On May 22, 2019, Russia filed its objections questioning the tribunal's jurisdiction over the claim.

"The Law of the Sea case goes forward! The Hague Arbitration Tribunal reaffirmed its jurisdiction to consider Ukraine's claim on the Sea of #Azov and the #Kerch Strait, as well as

the expropriation of our natural resources," Ukraine's Foreign minister Vadym Pristaiko said on Twitter on Friday evening.

He said the decision applies to the construction of the Kerch bridge by Russia, which Kyiv considers to be illegal, and the stopping of ships en route to the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdiansk.