Russia urges arbitration panel to toss out Black Sea case

Russia urged an international arbitration panel Monday to throw out a case filed by Ukraine linked to mineral and fishing rights in waters around the Crimean Peninsula.

Preliminary hearings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration stem from Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, a move that Ukraine and most of the world view as illegal.

Russian lawyers argue that the arbitration case is an attempt by Ukraine to have the international panel rule on that dispute.

"It is obvious that Ukraine tries to draw Russia into addressing the merits of the legal dispute on the legality of Crimea's accession to the Russian Federation," said Dmitry Lobach, the head of Russia's legal team at the hearing. "This dispute however is outside the scope of the jurisdiction of this tribunal."

Lobach told the five-judge arbitration panel the case falls outside the scope of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea cited by Ukraine in its claim, which was filed in 2016.

Details of the Ukrainian claim have not been released, but Kiev has filed a series of lawsuits seeking compensation for damages resulting from the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine is set to present its legal arguments Tuesday as to why the case should go ahead. It is not clear when the arbitration panel will issue a decision on jurisdiction.

The case is the latest legal battleground between Russia and Ukraine over the annexation of Crimea — which Lobach cast Monday as a legal reunification.

Last month, a U.N. maritime tribunal in Hamburg, Germany, ruled that Russia must immediately release three Ukrainian naval vessels it captured during a tense standoff in November in the Kerch Strait, which links the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea and free the 24 sailors it detained.

In that case, too, Russia argued that the tribunal had no jurisdiction and has not complied with the order to release the sailors and ships.