On 31 August 2018, the Tribunal hearing Ukraine’s case against the Russian Federation under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) published a procedural order determining that it would rule on certain jurisdictional objections raised by the Russian Federation in a preliminary phase of the proceedings.
On 19 February 2018, Ukraine filed a Memorial with the UNCLOS Tribunal establishing that Russia has violated Ukraine’s sovereign rights in the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and Kerch Strait. Ukraine’s Memorial showed that, since 2014, Russia has unlawfully excluded Ukraine from exercising its maritime rights; it has exploited Ukraine’s sovereign resources for its own ends; and it has usurped Ukraine’s right to regulate within its own maritime areas. Through these violations of international law, Russia is stealing Ukraine’s energy and fisheries resources, harming the livelihoods of Ukrainian fishermen, and blocking traffic to Ukrainian ports with its illegal bridge over the Kerch Strait, among other serious violations.
Rather than respond to the merits of Ukraine’s case, the Russian Federation filed objections to the jurisdiction of the UNCLOS Tribunal on 22 May 2018, as permitted by the Tribunal’s rules of procedure. In the statement of MFA of Ukraine on the Jurisdictional Phase of Proceedings in this case on 31 August 2018 Russia’s primary jurisdictional objection concerning the Ukraine’s attempt to obtain a ruling confirming Ukraine’s sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula were rejected. Moreover, Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea needs no further confirmation: it is overwhelmingly accepted by the international community as a whole, and it has been affirmed three times by the U.N. General Assembly.
MFA of Ukraine also refused Russia’s allegation that the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait are not subject to under the 1982 UNCLOS because Ukraine and Russia have agreed to maintain these areas as “common internal waters”. Yet, in reality, Russia has seized Ukrainian gas fields in the Sea of Azov, purported to unilaterally nullify Ukrainian licenses for such gas fields, unilaterally built a bridge and other structures across the Kerch Strait, and imposed unilateral limits on the dimensions of vessels that may pass through the Strait. Each of these actions is irreconcilable with Russia’s assertion that Ukraine and Russia have maintained common sovereignty over the Sea of Azov and Kerch. MFA of Ukraine pointed that the state-aggressor must and will be held accountable for its serious breaches of the International Law of the Sea