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ICJ partially rejects Ukraine 'terror' case, as Russia and Ukraine swap POWs

Recently swapped Ukrainian prisoners of war covered in national flags sit in a bus after a prisoner exchange on the Ukrainian Russian border, on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
Recently swapped Ukrainian prisoners of war covered in national flags sit in a bus after a prisoner exchange on the Ukrainian Russian border, on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. Copyright Associated Press
Copyright Associated Press
By Euronews with AP
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All the latest developments on the war in Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine swap scores of POWs despite tensions over a plane crash last week

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Russia and Ukraine have exchanged about 200 prisoners of war each, the countries said Wednesday, despite tensions stemming from last week's crash of a military transport plane that Moscow claimed was carrying Ukrainian POWs and was shot down by Kyiv's forces.

After the 24 January crash of the Il-76 plane in Russia's Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine, some Russian officials had publicly questioned the possibility of future POW swaps.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the countries exchanged 195 POWs each. After the statement was released, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 207 Ukrainians were freed. There was no immediate explanation for the different figures.

“We remember each Ukrainian in captivity. Both warriors and civilians. We must bring all of them back. We are working on it,” Zelenskyy said on X, formerly Twitter.

Dmytro Lubinets, Ukraine’s ombudsman for human rights, said on social media that it was the 50th such exchange since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion nearly two years ago, with a total of 3,035 POWs repatriated.

Among the Ukrainians released were members of the armed forces, National Guard, Border Service and national police, said Andrii Yermak, head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office. He added that some of them had been captured while defending Mariupol, Azovstal, and Snake Island.

The Russian military said, without providing details or evidence, that the Russian POWs who were swapped Wednesday “faced deadly danger in captivity” and will be flown to Moscow for treatment and rehabilitation.

Moscow had said 65 Ukrainian POWs had been aboard the military transport that crashed 24 January. Ukrainian officials confirmed that a swap was due to take place that day and was called off, but said it has seen no evidence the plane was carrying the POWs.

Meeting with his campaign staff in Moscow as he ramps up his run for reelection, President Vladimir Putin said Russian investigators concluded that Ukraine used US-supplied Patriot air defence systems to shoot down the transport plane. Ukrainian officials didn’t deny the plane’s downing but didn’t take responsibility and called for an international investigation.

Putin said Russia wouldn’t just welcome but would “insist” on an international inquiry on what he described as a “crime” by Ukraine.

ICJ judges largely reject Ukraine's "terror" case against Russia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected on Wednesday almost all of Ukraine's claims on Russia violating the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

The United Nations’ top court rejected large parts of the case filed by Ukraine, alleging that Russia bankrolled separatist rebels in the country’s east a decade ago and discriminated against Crimea’s multi-ethnic community, the International Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that Moscow violated articles of two treaties.

Russia has not fulfilled its obligations only on one provision of the convention, said ICJ President Joan Donoghue while reading out the decision in The Hague.

"Russia failed to fulfill its obligations to conduct investigations against individuals who allegedly could finance terrorism in Ukraine," she said.

Most of Ukraine's claims under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination were also found to be ungrounded.

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"The Court rejects all other claims of Ukraine in relation to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination," the order read.

However, it added that Russia had violated its obligations under Articles 2 and 5 of the convention through its implementation of its educational system in Crimea after 2014 with regard to schooling in the Ukrainian language.

Even though it rejected far more of Kyiv’s claims under the treaties, Anton Korynevych, a lawyer representing Ukraine at the ICJ, said it was a "really important day" because the court had still ruled that Russia had "violated international law."

Ukraine sued Russia for violating both conventions in 2017, and labeled breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk "terrorist organisations financed by Russia."

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Kyiv also insisted that Russia was allegedly conducting a targeted campaign of racial discrimination against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea.

The court also rejected Ukraine’s request for Moscow to pay reparations for attacks in eastern Ukraine blamed on pro-Russia Ukrainian rebels, including the 17 July 2014, downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 passengers and crew.

Azov Brigade uses a howitzer to fire at Russian positions in eastern Ukraine

An artillery unit of the Azov Brigade in eastern Ukraine has used a howitzer to fire at Russian positions, as Ukraine's forces continue to grapple with ammunition shortages.

The unit, embedded in the forest near Lyman, said Russian forces were attempting to advance and their work was crucial to hold them back.

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The situation in the Kreminna direction is tense with Russians making assaults every day, the soldiers say.

"As on the entire frontline, it is quite tense here because there are active assaults that we are fighting back and this requires a lot of ammunition," said "Vyarag", an Azov Brigade howitzer calculation commander.

The brigade is facing a lack of ammunition and parts to repair the American howitzers they received last September.

For now, they have only 10% of the total number they need to fight Russians said one of the commanders of the artillery division.

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The brigade said that they are constantly inventing new fighting strategies to deter the Russians, but to go on a counterattack to win, more ammunition is needed.

Even with a shortage of ammunition, soldiers are not lacking motivation.

Putin holds meeting on development of occupied Ukrainian territories

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday chaired a meeting on the economic development of occupied Ukrainian territories.

Moscow spent almost two trillion rubles on a “comprehensive” development programme of Russia-held parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions last year, Putin said.

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Over two million local residents there are already receiving social security payments, he added.

“The economy is gradually recovering, including industry. More than one-and-a-half hundred enterprises in mechanical engineering, metallurgy, mining, and other important industries in all these regions have resumed work.

Support for farmers has been established, banks and shops are operating,” Putin claimed.

He urged Russian banks to start working in the occupied territories.

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“Everything that was feared before - sanctions - has already happened. What is there to be afraid of? You need to enter these territories and work more actively there,” Putin said.

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