This Day in International Law – March 18

This Day in International Law – March 18 

By: Camille van Hamme


Photo: d1mka vetrov

On 18 March 2014, Vladimir Putin signed a treaty officially annexing the internationally recognized Ukrainian territory of Crimea to Russia. In the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution, Russian-backed forces had seized control of the Crimea, and the territory, which has a population with a Russian-speaking majority, voted to join Russia in a referendum.

This conflict sparked one of the most serious security crises between Russia and the West since the Cold War. Many world leaders and governments immediately condemned the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory and some imposed a round of sanctions against Russia – immediately negatively impacting its economy.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea raises serious questions about compliance with international law on multiple levels. For example, among many other transgressions, Russia’s use of force directly violated article 2 of the UN Charter, which prohibits the forceful acquisition of territory. From an international law perspective, recognizing Russia’s annexation, based on an illegitimate referendum, is inconceivable and would set a dangerous precedent.

Camille is an LLM candidate at Berkeley Law. She is a student contributor for Travaux.

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