On Tuesday, April 16, President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine had filed a new complaint to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) against Russia's actions. The main official purpose of the claim is to release Ukrainian sailors who are illegally detained in Russia, as well as to return the seized Ukrainian warships. The claim of Ukraine is based on the fact that the Russians violated one of the key principles of Maritime law – the immunity of warships and their crews. As a result, the detention of Ukrainians on November 25, 2018 is a direct violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
On May 10, the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg began an open public hearings in the case of the Russian attack on Ukrainian warships and the seizure of Ukrainian sailors. Within the framework of the complaint, Ukraine demands to apply temporary measures against the Russian Federation in order to release Ukrainian military and warships. The courtroom was attended by the agent of Ukraine, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Olena Zerkal, Vice admiral Andriy Tarasov, Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the Navy of Ukraine, lawyers of the Ukrainian side, professors Fred Souns and Jean-Marc Tuvenin and lawyers Marney Cheek and Jonathan Himblet. Also in the courtroom were lawyers Oksana Zolotareva, Colonel Leonid Zalyubovsky, Nikil Gore and Alexander Francis and advisers Taras Kachka and Russian lawyer of seized sailors Nikolai Polozov. The main official purpose of the claim of Ukraine is to release Ukrainian sailors who are illegally detained in Russia, as well as to return the seized Ukrainian warships. There were no representatives of Russia in the courtroom, because Russia refused to participate in the proceedings.
As a result of the seizure and detention of Ukrainian warships and crew, Russia violated the basic principle of immunity of warships guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. According to the correspondent of the "European truth", this was stated by the agent of Ukraine, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olena Zerkal during the hearings on the seizure of Ukrainian sailors by Russia at the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg. Having started his speech, Zerkal noted that Ukraine had no other choice but to move to judicial procedures, since it was not possible to resolve the dispute with Russia by diplomatic means. "Ukraine has initiated arbitration proceedings to obtain legal protection against these violations," Zerkal said. She added that Russia's behavior is a gross violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and Customary international law. "The immunity of warships is fundamental in the international system. Warships and their personnel can not be arrested by law enforcement agencies of foreign states and subjected to the jurisdiction of foreign courts," she said. In this regard, Ukraine asks the Tribunal to apply temporary measures, given the urgency of the situation in order to make Russia immediately release the warships of Ukraine and members of their crews and returne them to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian side explained in the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea why the exception to military activities in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Russia refers, can not be applied in the case of the attack in the Kerch Strait on November 25 last year. During hearings regarding the seizure of the Ukrainian sailors by Russia in the International UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg on Friday, the lawyer Marney Cheek explained that the Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian warships is not subject to the exception in respect of military activities. In particular, Russia itself determines its actions as a law enforcement rather than a military activity. Russia also constantly denied the military nature of its actions. "The nature of the actions that Russia carries out is of the nature of the "application of national legislation", in this case criminal. And these actions are the subject of the case, because they violate the immunity guaranteed by the Convention," Zerkal said in a Facebook message. In addition, Ukrainian warships were not involved in military activities. They tried to return to their home port, but just because the ship is a warship it does not mean that it is involved in military activities. "To use the exception for military activities, it is not the type of ship that matters, but the nature of its activities," the report said.
In its argument, Russia refers to the case of South China Sea. However, in this case, the Tribunal relied on how China itself determined the actions of its military vessel, and the emphasis was on the fact that they were civil, not military. Separately Ukraine insists that the dispute in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea concerns the immunity of warships from the Russian national jurisdiction, not military activities.
The decision of the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on the introduction of temporary measures against Russia in the case of the attack on Ukrainian warships and crew near the Kerch Strait is expected approximately on May, 25. As the "European truth" reports, this was the result of the hearings in the Tribunal said the presiding officer in a meeting. The representatives of Ukraine provided the necessary arguments for the introduction of temporary measures. Ukraine has accused Russia in violation of the immunities of warships and rejected charges of the Russian Federation against the Ukrainian warships.
Undoubtedly, since Ukraine's position has received the support from the EU, the U.S. and NATO, we have a high chances to win this case. But it should be remembered that Russia ignores international law and is unlikely to agree to return prisoners of war to Ukraine in the near future, but in this case Russia will receive a new package of sanctions.