How to punish Russia for illegal gas extraction on Ukrainian shelf
Russia has rudely intruded, yet again, into the sphere of Ukraine’s gas interests with the illegal use of its natural resources. This outrageous fact was recently highlighted by the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service. According to its statement, off-coast jack-up rigs and maintenance ships under the Russian flag were spotted at the Odesa and Golytsynske gas fields, located within the exclusive economic zone of Ukraine.
Gas extraction on the Ukrainian shelf by the Russians, without any kind of licensing agreements, is indeed a glaring precedent. However, the paradox also lies in the fact that it’s only now that the border guards have spoken. After all, the off-coast development of Ukrainian gas fields has always been a prerogative of Ukraine’s PJSC Chornomornaftogaz, which was unlawfully nationalized following the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.
The company pursued with gas development at the sites following its transition to the management of the de-facto authorities of Crimea. That is why we can speak of an explicitly belated response by the Ukrainian Border Guard Service.
Ukraine must clearly record Russian violations of international law in connection with the illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory.
The situation is non-standard. The issue of illegal gas extraction at drilling platforms under the Russian flag in the exclusive economic zone of Ukraine also needs to be addressed urgently. Any further delay will only aggravate this negative precedent.
To effectively curb the illegal use of Ukrainian assets by Russians in annexed Crimea, Ukraine must, firstly, draft and submit the claim against the Russian Federation at the international level. In particular, Ukraine must clearly record Russian violations of international law in connection with the illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory.
The government should declare a violation of the integrity of the Ukrainian territory and gross interference in its internal affairs on the part of the Russian Federation. Thus, the status quo of Ukraine on the Crimean issue will be stated clearly. The platform for such an application and declaration of the status quo should be the International Court of Justice.
After declaring the demands at the international level, it is necessary to resort to the standard international legal instruments and to put forward the claims against Russia regarding its breach of international law of the sea.
Only after performing such steps can Ukraine claim illegal nationalization of its assets in Crimea. This equally concerns PJSC Chornomornaftogaz. The relevant demands should include a complete list of the company's assets, including the jack-up rigs and the fleet, which Russia has appropriated after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.
After declaring the demands at the international level, it is necessary to resort to the standard international legal instruments and to put forward the claims against Russia regarding its breach of the international law of the sea. With such an international legal situation, Ukraine can count on the support of the international community.
If the process unfolds in this way, the data gathered by the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service on the illegal development by the Russian Federation of the Ukrainian subsoil will acquire special value. They can be used as an evidence base to confirm Russia’s gross violations of the international law of the sea in Ukraine’s exclusive economic zone.
Oleksiy Starodub is the director of the Crimean Expert Center