Russia refused on Monday to turn up at the UN’s top court where Ukraine asked for an immediate halt to Moscow’s invasion.
The no-show was criticised by the head of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) while Ukraine said the empty Russian seats “speak loudly”.
Several dozen Ukrainian protesters shouted slogans including “stop Putin!” and “stop genocide!” rallied outside the court’s Peace Palace headquarters in The Hague.
Kyiv filed the case shortly after Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion, accusing Russia of having illegally tried to justify its war by falsely alleging genocide in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Ukraine wants the court to take provisional measures ordering Russia to “immediately suspend the military operations”, pending a full judgment in the dispute that could take years.
“The fact that Russia’s seats are empty speaks loudly,” Ukraine’s representative Anton Korynevych told the court.
“They are not here in this court of law, they are on a battlefield, waging aggressive war against my country.
“This is how Russia solves disputes.”
The court “has a responsibility to act”, Korynevych added.
“Russia must be stopped, and the court has a role to play in stopping that.”
Russian ambassador Alexander Shulgin had written to the court and “indicated that his government did not intend to participate” in the urgent hearing, ICJ President Joan Donoghue said.
“The court regrets the non-appearance of the Russian Federation in these oral proceedings,” added Donoghue.
The court cancelled a second day of hearings, saying it was going to start its deliberations after Ukraine’s arguments.
A decision will be announced “in due course”, the ICJ said. Such interim rulings often come within weeks.
The ICJ was set up after World War II to rule on disputes between UN member states, based mainly on treaties and conventions. While its rulings are binding, it has no real means to enforce them.
This case hinges on the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, to which both Ukraine and Russia are parties.
The ICJ was already dealing with a dispute between the two countries dating back to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Moscow rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Ukraine says Russia has now wrongly invoked the genocide convention with an “absurd lie” about the genocide of Russian-speakers in Lugansk and Donetsk.
“Russia’s lie is all the more offensive, and ironic, because it appears that it is Russia planning acts of genocide in Ukraine,” it said in its court filing.
Experts said Ukraine’s effort to drag Russia to the world court over the invasion could have symbolic value, but that it was unclear if Moscow would heed any order.
Citizens fill bags with sand for frontlines, along the beach of the Black Sea city of Odessa, in the southern Ukraine on March 7, 2022. Odessa, which Ukraine fears could be the next target of Russia’s offensive in the south, is the country’s main port and is vital for its economy.”Not that Russia is likely to comply but still — rhetorically and symbolically there is some power to this,” said international public law professor Marko Milanovic, writing in the European Journal of International Law.
Ukrainian demonstrators placed birthday candles spelling the words “Putin come out” on a lawn outside the court.
“It’s no surprise they (the Russians) don’t show up because they are living in some imaginary world,” said Tamare Snigirovi, 32, a Ukrainian living in the Netherlands.
“There is no truth in their words at all.”
The case is separate from a Ukraine war crimes investigation launched by the International Criminal Court (ICC), a different tribunal also based in The Hague.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan on Wednesday announced he was going ahead with an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion.