Today, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) issued an order, that prescribed provisional measures ordering The Russian Federation to immediately release the Ukrainian naval vessels Berdyansk, Nikopol and Yani Kapu, and return them to the custody of Ukraine and immediately release the 24 detained Ukrainian servicemen and allow them to return to Ukraine.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased that the Tribunal has ordered the provisional measures requested by Ukraine.
Today’s order sends a strong message to Russia that it cannot violate international law with impunity. The detention of the three naval vessels and the 24 servicemen on board is a blatant violation of the sovereign immunity enjoyed by warships under UNCLOS and general international law.
As the Tribunal stated, the actions taken by the Russian Federation create a real and ongoing risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by Ukraine to the immunity of its naval vessels and the servicemen on board.
We now expect Russia to comply promptly and in full with the Tribunal’s order.
Background on the Proceedings
Today’s order relates to an arbitration, and a related request for provisional measures before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), instituted by Ukraine in April 2019.
The arbitration, filed on 1 April 2019, is based on Russia’s violation of the absolute immunity of the three Ukrainian naval ships and the twenty-four servicemen on board those ships. The Russian Federation unlawfully seized Ukraine’s naval ships and servicemen on 25 November 2018 and continues to detain them even today in violation of international law. Specifically, Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s warships and servicemen violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and customary international law, which guarantee naval vessels and the personnel on board complete immunity, including against seizure, detention, and all forms of domestic legal process.
Ukraine’s request for provisional measures, on which ITLOS ruled today, seeks to protect against further irreparable prejudice to Ukraine’s rights while the arbitration tribunal hears Ukraine’s case.