The United Nations’ top court for disputes between states ordered Russia on Wednesday to immediately halt its military operations in Ukraine, saying it was “profoundly concerned” by Moscow’s use of force.
Although the rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) are binding, it has no direct means of enforcing them, and in rare cases in the past countries have ignored them, Reuters reported.
“The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on Feb 24, 2022 on the territory of Ukraine,” the ICJ judges said in a 13-2 decision.
They added that Russia must also ensure that other forces under its control or supported by Moscow should not continue the military operation.
Ukraine filed its case at the ICJ shortly after Russia’s invasion began on February 24, saying that Moscow’s stated justification, that it was acting to prevent a genocide in eastern Ukraine, was unfounded.
In addition to disputing the grounds for the invasion, Kyiv also asked for emergency “provisional” measures against Russia to halt the violence before the case was heard in full. Those measures were granted on Wednesday.
During hearings earlier this month, Ukraine said there was no threat of genocide in eastern Ukraine, and that the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention, which both countries have signed, does not allow an invasion to prevent one.
Ukrainian government forces have been battling Russia-backed separatists in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine since 2014. Kyiv and its Western allies reject Moscow’s claims of any genocide being perpetrated against Russian speakers there.
Russia said it had skipped the hearings at the ICJ, also known as the World Court, “in light of the apparent absurdity of the lawsuit”.
It later filed a written document arguing that the court should not impose any measures.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday welcomed the ruling by the ICJ on emergency mesaures as “a complete victory” in its case against Russia, Reuters reported.
“The (ICJ) order is binding under international law. Russia must comply immediately. Ignoring the order will isolate Russia even further,” Zelenskiy said on Twitter.
Reading out Wednesday’s ruling, presiding judge Joan Donoghue said the court was “profoundly concerned about the use of force by the Russian Federation in Ukraine which raises very serious issues of international law”.
North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US VP Harris visit
North Korea fired a ballistic missile towards the sea off its east coast on Sunday, ahead of planned military drills by South Korean and U.S. forces involving an aircraft carrier and a visit to the region by US Vice President Kamala Harris, Reuters reported.
South Korea’s military said it was a single, short-range ballistic missile fired from near the Taechon area of North Pyongyan Province just before 7 a.m. local time and flew about 600 km (373 miles) at an altitude of 60 km and a speed of Mach 5.
“North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile is an act of grave provocation that threatens the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and international community,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
According to Reuters after the launch, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Seung-kyum and the US Forces Korea Commander Paul LaCamera discussed the situation and reaffirmed their readiness to respond to any threat or provocation from North Korea, it added.
South Korea’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss response measures and condemned the launch as an apparent violation of the U.N. Security Council Resolutions and an unjustifiable act of provocation.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who arrived in Seoul late on Saturday from a trip to Britain, the United States and Canada, was briefed on the launch, the presidential office said.
Japan’s Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan estimated the missile reached maximum altitude at 50 km and may have flown on an irregular trajectory. Hamada said it fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of problems with shipping or air traffic.
Many of the short-range missiles tested by North Korea in recent years have been designed to evade missile defences by manoeuvring during flight and flying on a lower, “depressed” trajectory, experts have said.
“If you include launches of cruise missiles this is the nineteenth launch, which is an unprecedented pace,” Hamada said.
“North Korea’s action represents a threat to the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community and to do this as the Ukraine invasion unfolds is unforgivable,” he said, adding that Japan had delivered a protest through North Korea’s embassy in Beijing.
The US Indo-pacific Command said it was aware of the launch and consulting closely with allies, in a statement released after the launch, while reaffirming US commitment to the defence of South Korea and Japan, read the report.
“While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilising impact of the DPRK’s unlawful Weapons of Mass Destruction and ballistic missile programs.”
US aircraft carrier arrives in South Korea as warning to North Korea
A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in about four years, due to join South Korean ships in a military show of force aimed at sending North Korea a message, Reuters quoting officials said.
USS Ronald Reagan and ships from its accompanying strike force docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan.
According to Reuters its arrival marks the most significant deployment yet under a new push to have more US nuclear-capable “strategic assets” operate in the area to deter North Korea.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has pushed for more joint exercises and other displays of military power as a warning to North Korea, which earlier this year conducted a record number of missile tests after talks failed to persuade it to end its nuclear weapons and missile development.
Observers say Pyongyang also appears to be preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, read the report.
North Korea has denounced previous US military deployments and joint drills as rehearsals for war and proof of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.
The visit is the first to South Korea by an American aircraft carrier since 2018. That year, the allies scaled back many of their joint military activities amid diplomatic efforts to engage with North Korea, but those talks have since stalled and Pyongyang this month unveiled an updated law codifying its right to conduct first-use nuclear strikes if necessary to protect itself.
Russia frees 215 Ukrainians held after Mariupol battle, Ukraine says
Russia has released 215 Ukrainians it took prisoner after a protracted battle for the port city of Mariupol earlier this year, including top military leaders, Reuters quoting a senior official in Kyiv said on Wednesday.
The freed prisoners include the commander and deputy commander of the Azov battalion that did much of the fighting, said Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office.
According to Reuters the move is unexpected, since Russian-backed separatists last month said there would be a trial of Azov personnel, who Moscow describes as Nazis. Ukraine denies the charge.
In a statement, Yermak said the freed prisoners included Azov commander Lieutenant Colonel Denys Prokopenko and his deputy, Svyatoslav Palamar.
Also at liberty is Serhiy Volynsky, the commander of the 36th Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The three men had helped lead a dogged weeks-long resistance from the bunkers and tunnels below Mariupol’s giant steel works before they and hundreds of Azov fighters surrendered in May to Russian-backed forces.
Yermak said that in return, Kyiv had freed 55 Russian prisoners as well as Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of a banned pro-Russian party who was facing treason charges.
Public broadcaster Suspline said the exchange had happened near the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, Reuters reported.
Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia said Russia had released 10 foreign prisoners of war captured in Ukraine following mediation by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Last month, the head of the Russian-backed separatist administration in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk said a trial of captured Azov personnel would take place by the end of the summer.
The Azov unit, formed in 2014 as a militia to fight Russian-backed separatists, denies being fascist, and Ukraine says it has been reformed from its radical nationalist origins.
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