Russia accuses Ukraine of 'blatant lies' about Crimea discrimination, MH17

FILE PHOTO: General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague

THE HAGUE (Reuters) -Russia on Thursday denied Ukrainian accusations that it backed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and discriminates against ethnic Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea, accusing Kyiv instead of "blatant lies" at the U.N.'s top court.

Ukraine has asked the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Russia to halt alleged discrimination against the Tatar ethnic group in Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula occupied by Russia since 2014.

"Ukraine is constantly turning to blatant lies and false accusations leveled against the Russian federation," the Russian ambassador to the Netherlands, Alexander Shulgin, said at the second day of hearings at the ICJ.

In the same case, Kyiv also says that Moscow violated a U.N. anti-terrorism treaty by equipping and funding pro-Russian forces, including militias who shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, killing all 298 passengers and crew in 2014.

Last November, a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian separatist in absentia for their role and sentenced them to life in prison. It found that Russia had "overall control" over the separatist forces.

Russia rejected what it called the "scandalous" decision by the Dutch court. On Thursday Russia's ambassador-at-large Gennady Kuzmin told the ICJ the Dutch judgment was biased against separatist forces in the Donesk region.

"At the end of the day, Ukraine's MH17 case boils down to nonsense," Kuzmin said.

The hearings in the case at the ICJ, which stems from 2017, marked the first time lawyers for Ukraine and Russia met at the ICJ since Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

On the first day of the hearing Ukraine accused Russia of being a terrorist state and said it tried to erase the culture of ethnic Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea.

Russia denies systematic human rights abuses in Ukrainian territory that it occupies.

The court adjourned on Thursday but will hold two more days of hearings next week where Ukraine and Russia can react to each others' submissions.

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is expected to rule on the case before the end of this year.

The ICJ is the United Nations' top court for disputes between states and its rulings are binding but have no enforcement mechanism.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is also the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, on war crimes charges over forced deportations of Ukrainian children. The Kremlin denies this.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, Editing by William Maclean, Angus MacSwan and Sharon Singleton)