Ukraine brought this case to the ICJ, the United Nations’ highest court which is also known as the World Court, days after Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24, 2022.
But the case is not a straight-forward accusation of genocide.
Kyiv has accused Russia of violating the international genocide treaty, not by committing genocide, but by justifying Russia’s own invasion of Ukraine through the treaty itself.
This is part of the landmark 1948 UN convention which both Russia and Ukraine ratified.
In its case, Ukraine alleges Moscow justified its invasion two years ago – known in Russia as the “special military operation” – by claiming it needed to stop an alleged genocide of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk.
Ukraine also accuses Moscow of “planning acts of genocide”.
Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Kyiv since 2014, and Putin signed a decree recognising the independence of two Ukrainian regions three days before initiating war.
But, Kyiv says it did not pose any risk of genocide to those in eastern Ukraine – and by making such a claim to justify its war, Russia was in breach of international law.
Russia’s lawyers have argued since September 2023 that the case should be thrown out, that the arguments were flawed and the court had no jurisdiction.
It said Ukraine’s argument was a way to combat Russia’s supposed legal military action.
But today, out of Russia’s six preliminary objections to the case, the ICJ rejected five.
Europe has repeatedly expressed its backing for Kyiv ahead of this case, with more than 24 countries offering formal statements to the court supporting Ukraine.
Although the case has passed this stage, it may be months until the World Court hears the full arguments, and years away from making a full legally binding decision.
Russia has prompted several responses from the UN’s highest court since the war in Ukraine began.
The ICJ issued emergency measures in March 2022, a month after the invasion, calling for Moscow to stop its military actions.
While the court is legally binding, it has no way to force countries to take its orders – so Russia ignored this plea.
And, only earlier this week, the world court ruled Russia had violated parts of UN treaties against the financing of terrorism and discriminated minorities in occupied Crimea in 2014 in a separate case.
However, it was not a strong victory for Ukraine, as the ICJ rejected Kyiv’s call for compensation and just ordered Russia to comply with the treaties.
Still Ukraine’s representative Anton Korynevych said it was significant because “this is the first time that officially, legally, Russia is called a violator of international law.”