However, the court did not support the majority of Ukraine’s charges against Russia, including over its dismantling of the Mejilis, the highest representative body of Crimean Tatars, and numerous illegal arrests following its occupation of Crimea. Tatars are a Turkic-speaking ethnic group and form a minority in Crimea.
“I am disappointed by the toothless decision of the court,” Lana Zerkal, Ukraine’s former deputy foreign minister and its representative to the court, told POLITICO. “This is a bare minimum of what we demanded.”
Zerkal said the United Nations court had an opportunity to create a historic precedent by recognizing a state as a sponsor of terrorism, noting that Russia has supplied armed groups in Ukraine’s east with rockets, bombs and money — knowing it would be used to kill and intimidate civilians.
However, the court restricted its definition of terrorism financing to registered online financial operations; thereby excluding cash, weapons and ammunition. This despite a 2022 verdict by a Dutch court sentencing two Russian nationals and a Ukrainian separatist to life in jail for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over Ukraine. The guilty men used a Russian-made BUK missile system supplied to them by Moscow.
“This creates a legislative vacuum,” Zerkal said. “Nowadays, terrorism financing comes in every form — including cash, weapons, and bitcoins. But the conservative U.N. court ruled it is not terrorism financing if it is not a standard money transfer.”
Ukraine’s second claim was also largely disallowed, with judges saying they lacked enough evidence that the Mejilis ban was made on the basis of race.
Zerkal said that for her, it is now clear that Russia would not be punished for its actions in Ukraine since 2014. “I think this is a sign of the times. Just like the U.N. Security Council can’t do anything, the U.N. court also can’t.”
Ukraine filed the complaints in 2017, claiming numerous violations of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.