What is it about?

Oceans and other large water bodies are an important economic resource. An international treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) governs the human use and protection of the such waters. Sometimes, conflicts arise when two states wish to “control” the same waters. Under this treaty, the states can raise a dispute with an international committee. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea. After this, Ukraine raised a complaint under the UNCLOS. It stated that the waters of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov around the coast of Crimea still constituted Ukrainian waters. In his paper, Dr. Valentin Schatz discussed the decisions of the arbitral tribunal about the preliminary objections raised by Russia in this case. In this case, first, the tribunal avoided weighing in on those of Ukraine’s claims that would require it to make a decision on which state Crimea belonged to. This was important, as such decisions are outside its legal purview. Second, Russia argued that the disputed waters historically belonged to Russia. The committee found that this claim needed more careful study. They concluded that they would need to hear the arguments of both parties first.

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Why is it important?

This case is a unique case in the Law of the Sea. It could set an important legal precedent for other such disputes in the future. It could also help in making better international laws protecting territorial freedom. Moreover, this case highlights the hurdles faced by international courts and tribunals. It emphasizes the importance of choosing the correct forum to decide international disputes. KEY TAKEAWAY: The Ukraine vs. Russia case under the UNCLOS is unique. There are few examples for such a conflict given the geography and history of the two states. The preliminary judgements by the international tribunal are reasonable. However, a final verdict is pending.

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This page is a summary of: The Status of Crimea and the Sea of Azov as a Jurisdictional Hurdle in Ukraine v. Russia, Review of Central and East European Law, December 2021, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/15730352-bja10053.
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