This article is dedicated to the publications of the Russian legal scholars on the annexation of Crimea in 2014 or, according to the Russian version of the events “Crimea’s reunification with Russia.” Based on the factual circumstances of the case and the norms of Ukrainian constitutional law and international law, as well as modern approaches in international legal doctrine, the article analyses the key arguments of the Russian authorities and its legal scholarship, namely the following: 1) Russia’s use of force against Ukraine was necessary to defend Russian nationals and compatriots; 2) Russia’s use of force against Ukraine was a lawful response to the request for assistance by the legitimate leaders of Ukraine (V. Yanukovych) and Crimea (S. Aksyonov); 3) the events in Crimea were a secession, with the subsequent accession of the Republic of Crimea to the Russian Federation as an independent state; 4) Ukraine disregarded the principle of the equality and self-determination of peoples vis-à-vis the residents of Crimea, therefore, Crimeans had the right to secede; 5) Crimea is historically Russian; 6) Ukraine had been exercising peaceful annexation of the peninsula since 1991, and Russia did not object to this (subject to certain conditions, which Ukraine violated in 2014); 7) the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 was illegal. This article evaluates whether these claims hold any weight under international law. In addition the general trends in contemporary Russian approaches to international law are outlined and their effects on its foreign policy are examined.
On 11 March 2014 Crimea declared independence. Ukraine and international society has not recognised that act. However Crimea’s independence was recognised by Russia and on 18 March 2014 an agreement on the accession of the Republic of Crimea to the Russian Federation was signed. Many countries and international organisations have condemned that step, viewing it as illegal annexation. Regardless of how this situation is treated however, it is at present a fait accompli. Such a situation evokes legal consequences both in the internal law of Ukraine and Russia as well as on the plane of international law. The residents of Crimea appear to be in the worst situation. Legal certainty is a fiction for them now. There are also problems on the international plane. Despite the fact that in the opinion of international society Crimea remains an integral part of Ukraine, in practice there are many conflicting problems of a legal nature that cannot be solved, at least for the time being. This article analyses the legality and certain legal consequences of the “accession” of Crimea to Russia and the effect of this accession on the legal situation for residents of Crimea. The article concludes that legal situation of Crimeans will not improve anytime soon, and that the legal problems which have arisen on the international plane will not be resolved soon either.
This article is referenced to the thirtieth anniversary of the ICJ’s Nicaragua judgement on the merits of 1986. It acknowledges the significance of this much-debated judgement for the modern international law on the use of force (jus ad bellum). However the text focuses on one aspect of the judgment only, i.e. the definition of the notion of “armed attack” as the most grave form of the use of force. The impact of the judgement in this respect is critically analysed. It is argued that the introduction to the UN Charter text of undefined notions of the use of force, aggression, and armed attack may be labelled as the “original sin” of contemporary jus ad bellum, as it results in conceptual obscurity. It is also claimed that the ICJ reaffirmed this original sin in its Nicaragua judgment because it explicitly argued for the notion of “armed attack” as the most grave form of the use of armed force and, in consequence, distinguished it from the other, lesser forms of the use of force, while failing to introduce any sort of clarity in the conceptual ambiguity of jus ad bellum. The article also offers some remarks de lege ferenda and suggests abandoning the gravity criterion, which would require abandoning the well-established judicial and doctrinal interpretation approaches to jus ad bellum.
The aim of this article is to classify the armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia in light of international law. Firstly, the Russian armed activities are qualified through the lens of use of force and it is shown that Russia committed an aggression. Secondly, the Russian- Ukrainian conflict is qualified according to the law of armed conflict, not only identifying the applicable norms of law of armed conflict but examining whether atrocities have been committed and whether they are war crimes or mere crimes or acts of terror. The article posits that there is an international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine and in addition a non-international one between Ukrainian insurgents and governmental forces. The methodology used in the article is legal analysis of documents and international law doctrine.