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International arbitration to consider Ukraine’s corporate lawsuits on Crimean property

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is helping domestic companies to get compensation, hold consultations with legal advisers and international partners
Russia Day celebrations in Crimea (archive) Alexey Pavlishak/ITAR-TASS
Russia Day celebrations in Crimea (archive)
© Alexey Pavlishak/ITAR-TASS

KIEV, August 22. /TASS/. Lawsuits filed by Ukrainian companies against Russia to defend their Crimean assets are at the stage of their examination at an international arbitration court, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin said after his speech at a meeting of the heads of Ukraine’s foreign diplomatic missions on Monday.

Companies’ lawsuits

"Several lawsuits of Ukrainian companies to compensate for the loss of assets and revenues in Crimea are already at the stage of examination," he told journalists.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is helping domestic companies to get this compensation, hold consultations with legal advisers and international partners, the foreign minister said.

In particular, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s data, the lawsuits have been filed by the national energy company Naftogaz, rail operator Ukrzheldoroga, commercial lender Privatbank, oil company Ukrnafta, Belbek airport, Stabil, Everest Estate and Oshchadbank.

Maritime law claims

Ukraine is also carrying out work to prepare lawsuits against Russia at the state level and will soon submit a claim to international courts against Russia’s breach of its commitments under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Ukrainian foreign minister said.

"We’ll soon submit our judicial case related to Russia’s breach of its obligations under the Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.

Kiev intends to do much in the coming weeks as part of its judicial proceedings against Russia: after relevant consultations, it will be proving in an international arbitration court Russia’s breaches under the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the Convention on the ban of racial discrimination, in particular, the violations in Crimea, Klimkin said.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in June 2016 that Ukraine would initiate a dispute and an arbitral process to defend its rights guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea due to the loss of Crimea. As the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said, the legal action is aimed at securing Ukraine’s rights violated by Russia in the territorial sea, the area of the Black and Azov Seas and the Kerch Strait adjacent to Crimea, including the right to the continental shelf’s natural resources.

Moscow’s reaction

As spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova said earlier, Russia is ready to discuss with Ukraine any issues related to the use of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Russian diplomat said in this regard that a meeting with the Ukrainian side had been held in Minsk on August 11 intended to focus on the interpretation and the use of that convention.

As the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said, "the Ukrainian side had insisted for long" on holding such a meeting "while making no attempts to agree the date and the place of the meeting."

"The Russian side that was guided thoroughly and strictly by the provisions of that convention gave its immediate consent to this event in Minsk and sent a representative inter-departmental delegation to it and expected a serious discussion of episodes, which Ukraine had underlined as problematic and related to the convention," Zakharova noted.

"In actual fact, no substantive talk was held. We heard from Ukrainian representatives a long list of claims and expressed our readiness to examine them, as well as the issues of the convention’s applicability to them, and also to report about the results of our analysis at the next round of consultations," the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian side perceived these consultations as "a formal pretext for stating ‘about completing pre-judicial consultations with Russia on sovereign rights in the waters around Crimea," Zakharova said.

"We qualify this as a refusal from a conscientious exchange of opinions on the interpretation and the use of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, in which Russia has agreed to take part as a responsible state and a party to this agreement," she noted.

"The refusal by the Ukrainian side to wait for our answers testifies to the absence of a true intention to discuss the existing issues with Russia. On its part, Russia remains open to discuss any issues on the convention," the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

Crimea’s reunification with Russia

The Crimean authorities held a referendum on March 16, 2014 on local residents’ attitude to Crimea’s reunification with Russia. With a record turnout of over 80%, 96.7% of Crimean residents and 95.6% of electors living in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol voted for the Black Sea peninsula’s reintegration into Russia.

The treaty on integrating the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol into Russia was approved by both houses of the Russian parliament, after which President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law on incorporating two new constituent entities into the Russian Federation.

Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia, despite the referendum’s convincing results.

Crimea used to be part of Russia from 1784 until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed it over to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in a voluntaristic act. Crimea remained part of independent Ukraine after the USSR collapsed in 1991.