By Robert Plummer
Russia has called on the International Court of Justice to throw out a case brought against it by Ukraine.
Kyiv accuses Moscow of falsely using genocide law to justify its invasion.
Russia maintains that it intervened in Ukraine to prevent a genocidal attack on ethnic Russians in the east.
The court hearing in The Hague will not examine the legality of Russia’s invasion, but will instead consider whether the International Court is allowed to examine Ukraine’s claims.
Ukraine says there was no risk of genocide in the east of the country, where it had been fighting Russian-backed forces since 2014.
It adds that the genocide treaty does not in any case permit an invasion to stop an alleged genocide.
For its part, Russia describes Ukraine’s case as “hopelessly flawed” and says that what Kyiv really wants is a ruling on the rights and wrongs of Russia’s military action.
Ukraine brought the case days after the Russian invasion on 24 February last year.
In mid-March, the ICJ – the United Nations’ highest court – called on Russia to suspend its military operations in Ukraine, but Russia did not accept this order, objecting to the court’s jurisdiction and describing Ukraine’s application as inadmissible.
In court on Monday, Russia’s legal representative, Gennady Kuzmin, said that since Ukraine insisted no genocide had occurred, there could not have been a violation of the United Nations Genocide Convention.
“That alone should be enough to reject the case,” he added.
In the coming days, the court will hear submissions from 32 other nations, all supporting Ukraine’s argument that the court has the proper jurisdiction to handle the case.
The hearings are expected to last until 27 September.
The 1948 UN Genocide Convention defined genocide as crimes committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”
Russian officials continue to accuse Ukraine of committing genocide.
In a separate case before the ICJ that dates back to 2017, Ukraine accuses Russia of illegally annexing Crimea and illicitly funding separatist rebels.
That action, brought under UN anti-terrorism and anti-discrimination conventions, is still in progress.