In a legal dispute at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Russia and Ukraine collided over Moscow’s claim that the alleged “genocide” in eastern Ukraine served as the pretext for its February 2022 invasion. Gennady Kuzmin, Moscow’s representative, vehemently rejected Ukraine’s accusation that Russia had abused the UN Genocide Convention to justify its war, dismissing it as false. President Vladimir Putin’s justification for the invasion included the assertion that pro-Russian individuals in eastern Ukraine had suffered from “bullying and genocide by the Kyiv regime.”
Just two days into the invasion, Ukraine promptly filed a suit at the ICJ, firmly rejecting Russia’s “genocide” pretext and alleging a violation of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.
Kuzmin argued that international law, including the Genocide Convention, does not admit mere “statements” about genocide. He suggested that expressions of concern about genocide were anticipated due to Kyiv’s historical associations with Nazism while asserting that Ukraine did not accuse Russia of committing or failing to prevent or punish genocide.
In conclusion, Kuzmin asserted that Ukraine’s legal stance fundamentally contradicted the court’s established jurisprudence. This case unfolds in the lavish Peace Palace in The Hague, where it questions whether the top UN court can halt Russia’s ongoing military actions.
Kuzmin pressed the court to dismiss the case, contending that the UN Genocide Convention is concerned with preventing and punishing genocide, neither of which applies to Ukraine’s claims. He emphasized that Ukraine neither accused Russia of committing genocide nor failed to prevent or punish it. Ukraine’s assertion that no genocide occurred, he argued, should alone justify the case’s rejection, as the absence of genocide precludes a violation of the Genocide Convention.