THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday denied Ukrainian accusations that it backed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and discriminates against ethnic Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea, accusing Kyiv instead of “blatant lies” at the U.N.’s top court.
Ukraine has asked the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Russia to halt alleged discrimination against the Tatar ethnic group in Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula occupied by Russia since 2014.
“Ukraine is constantly turning to blatant lies and false accusations leveled against the Russian federation,” the Russian ambassador to the Netherlands, Alexander Shulgin, said at the second day of hearings at the ICJ.
“Nothing could be further removed from the truth,” he said.
In the same case, a panel of 16 judges at the ICJ this week began hearing Ukraine’s assertion that Moscow violated a U.N. anti-terrorism treaty by equipping and funding pro-Russian forces, including militias who shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, killing all 298 passengers and crew in 2014.
Last November, a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian separatist in absentia for their role and sentenced them to life in prison. It found that Russia had “overall control” over the separatist forces.
Russia rejected what it called the “scandalous” decision by the Dutch court.
The hearings in the case at the ICJ, which stems from 2017, marked the first time lawyers for Ukraine and Russia met at the ICJ since Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
Russia denies systematic human rights abuses in Ukrainian territory that it occupies.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, Editing by William Maclean)