Ukraine’s UNCLOS Arbitration Claim Against Russia May Depend Upon Philippines-China Precedent
After months (or even years) of threats, Ukraine finally filed an arbitration claim against Russia under Annex VII of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. According to this statement from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign of Affairs, the claim will focus on Russia’s actions in the maritime zones bordering Crimea.
Since the Russian Federation’s illegal acts of aggression in Crimea, Russia has usurped and interfered with Ukraine’s maritime rights in these zones. Ukraine seeks to end the Russian Federation’s violations of UNCLOS and vindicate Ukraine’s rights in the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and Kerch Strait, including Ukraine’s rights to the natural resources offshore Crimea which belong to the Ukrainian people.
I discussed Ukraine’s claim back in February here, as well as Russia’s likely response. I can’t find a copy of the Ukrainian statement of claim online, but the MFA description sounds like it will be pretty similar to the approach pioneered by the Philippines in its claim against China. Ukraine will seek to avoid Russia’s Article 298 declaration excluding jurisdiction relating to sea boundary delimitations by not asking the tribunal to rule on sea boundaries. Ukraine will not seek to have the arbitral tribunal declare that the annexation of Crimea is illegal. Rather, the focus will be on specific actions Russia has taken in the Crimea maritime zones, which Ukraine is going to assume is part of Ukraine.
It will be interesting to see if Russia responds at all to this arbitration, or whether they follow China’s example and simply boycott the arbitration process completely. I am not sure Russia’s jurisdictional defense is as strong as China’s (which lost anyway), so I am betting Russia simply declares it will not even show up, while loudly declaiming the legality of their actions. Stay tuned.