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Critically Analyzing Russia's Justification Of The Invasion Of Ukraine

In the starting of 2021, Russian military presence increased[1] near the border of Ukraine, which resulted in full-scale war by February 2022. This proved to be the largest[2] attack on a European country since World War II. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, published an essay[3] in July 2021 asserting the oneness of the people of Russia and Ukraine.

In his speech, he went on to challenge the very statehood of Ukraine. Russia chose to put forth justifications for the full-fledged invasion of Ukraine. But these excuses do not stand in the face of scrutiny. This article critically analyzes these justifications.

Russia is member[4] of the UN and Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter provides that "member States shall not use force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any State." Russia hid behind Article 51, i.e. under the justification of self-defense. Russia claimed that it used force to protect the People's Republic of Donetsk and Luhansk.

This claim of Russia does not constitute valid arguments on two points. First, ICJ in Nicaragua[5] gave few essentials for right of self-defense such as armed attack, request by state for help, principles of necessity and proportionality. In Russia's case, Ukraine or any NATO member has not threatened or attacked Russia. Second rightly pointed out by Anthony Dworkin[6] that Donetsk and Luhansk are not independent states. They are not internationally recognized by any State except Russia.

Russia made claim of genocide of Russian speaking people from Ukraine. These claims can be debunked on two points. First allegations of genocide by Russia are unsubstantiated[7] by any evidence. Secondly, Genocides are governed by The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which authorize to take steps to prevent and punish it.

ICJ finds that the Convention do not authorizes any party to use force to prevent alleged genocide. In discussion of case, Ukraine vs Russian Federation [8], ICJ has provided that the acts taken by contracting party to prevent genocide must be in conformity with core principles of UN, more specifically, Article 1 of UN charter "maintenance of peace and security". Russia itself being permanent member of Security Council would have put its claim/case of alleged genocide before UN bodies. On this basis, ICJ ordered[9] Russia to immediately suspend its 'special military operation[10]' in Ukraine.

Putin in his speech[11] has tried to defend itself by recalling past interventions of US and its allies in Afghanistan, Syria, Libyan, Iraq. There is contextual difference. US intervened in middle east State like Syria[12] and Iraq[13] when it was facing challenges of terrorism. Also these comparisons are liable to be dismissed on the ground of irrelevancy. Harvard Professors Blum and Modirzadeh also made remark[14] that this justification has little weight at court because one (illegal) act of use of force does not justify other.

  • New satellite images show continuing Russian military buildup on three sides of Ukraine | CNN
  • Putin's Ukraine War Is the West's Biggest Test Since World War II (
  • Article by Vladimir Putin On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians  President of Russia (
  • Russian Federation | United Nations
  • Conditions for the lawful exercise of the right of self-defence in international law (
  • International law and the invasion of Ukraine | ECFR
  • Putin's claims that Ukraine is committing genocide are baseless, but not unprecedented (
  • Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine) | ICJ-CIJ
  • International Court orders Russia to 'immediately suspend' military operations in Ukraine | UN News
  • Special military operation - Wikipedia
  • 'No other option': Excerpts of Putin's speech declaring war | Russia-Ukraine war News | Al Jazeera
  • Timeline of the Syrian civil war - Wikipedia
  • Yemen profile - Timeline - BBC News
  • The war in Ukraine and international law - Harvard Law School | Harvard Law School

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