Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the 29th meeting of States Parties to the UNCLOS

Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the 29th meeting of States Parties to the UNCLOS

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

At the outset, we would like to express our appreciation to the Secretary-General and the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for their valuable and comprehensive reports.

We fully agree with the Secretary-General’s observation in his report, that nowadays there is a need to advance ocean science and address challenges and related gaps. Moreover, it is imperative to continue to increase awareness of the provisions of UNCLOS and its implementing agreements, as well as those of other legal instruments that complement the Convention, and to address any challenges in the implementation of the legal framework.

We are absolutely convinced that UNCLOS plays a key role in maintaining international peace and security, reinforcing friendly relations among States, protecting and preserving the marine environment and ensuring the sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources.

UNCLOS sets forth in Part XV rules for the resolution of disputes between State Parties arising from the interpretation or application of the Convention. Its hard to overestimate the significance of arbitration proceedings in this regard is hard to overestimate.

Mr. President,

Now let me stress the following: since 2014 Russia has engaged in numerous blatant violations of Ukraine’s rights under UNCLOS and other relevant rules of international law: it has unlawfully excluded Ukraine from exercising its maritime rights in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait; it has exploited Ukraine’s sovereign resources in those waters for its own needs; and it has usurped Ukraine’s right to regulate within its own maritime areas in those waters.

Through these violations of international law, Russia is, among other things, stealing Ukraine’s offshore hydrocarbons and fisheries resources, harming the livelihoods of Ukrainian fishermen, and interfering with navigation, including the navigation of vessels heading through the international Kerch Strait and toward Ukraine’s Sea of Azov ports.

Consistent with Article 33 of the UN Charter and Article 279 of UNCLOS, Ukraine has striven to peacefully resolve its dispute with Russia. In 2016, Ukraine instituted arbitral proceedings against the Russian Federation and filed a Notification and Statement of Claim pursuant to Part XV and Annex VII of UNCLOS.

Since then, Russia has continued its unlawful actions in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait, and it has aggravated its dispute with Ukraine in multiple different ways.

The construction by Russia of the bridge across the Kerch Strait and related construction projects, including submarine power cables and gas pipeline, violate numerous provisions of UNCLOS, including those pertaining to Ukraine’s rights in its territorial sea, Russia’s obligations to protect the marine environment, and Russia’s obligation not to impede transit passage through the Kerch Strait — an extremely busy narrow stretch of water connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, and to Ukraine’s ports at Mariupol and Berdyansk.

Moreover, in 2018 Russia has engaged in a campaign to interfere with Ukraine’s rights in the Sea of Azov by discriminatory stoppages of vessels bound for Ukraine’s Sea of Azov ports.

Just last week in the Hague the arbitral tribunal, constituted to hear Ukraine’s case in accordance with Annex VII to the Convention, held oral hearings concerning the Russian Federation’s Preliminary Objections in the arbitration instituted by Ukraine against the Russian Federation under Annex VII to the. Instead of responding to the law of the sea violations presented by Ukraine, Russia tries to unilaterally redefine the dispute.

Ukraine believes that Russia’s objections on jurisdiction should be rejected by the Arbitral Tribunal. And the case should proceed to merits phase without any further delay.

The Russian Federation has to be stopped from violating the Convention, it has to respect Ukraine’s sovereign rights in its own waters, to cease all unlawful activities, including the theft of Ukraine’s natural resources, in particular hydrocarbon resources, and to pay respective compensation, among other relief.

Russia has to comply with its obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, including mandatory decisions of its dispute settlement bodies.

Recently the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea addressed another violation by Russia in the Black Sea — immunities of warships. In its order, which met the request of Ukraine, the Tribunal 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 24 detained Ukrainian servicemen and allow them to return to Ukraine. ITLOS stated, theat 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.

In this regard, we call on the Russian Federation as a matter of exceptional urgency to comply immediately with the order of the Tribunal.

Ukraine will proceed protecting its rights in this case in the Arbitral Tribunal under Annex VII of the Convention, which we hope will be constituted shortly to hear the case on immunity of warships.

Thank you.