Discussions over the preliminary award of the Stockholm arbitration tribunal into the gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia, the rattle around much needed reforms and other important - and not so much - issues the Verkhovna Rada is supposed to deal with have all back-shelved somehow another interesting case: at the end of May the term expired of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

Unfortunately, this does not actually mean that "partner" relations between the two countries have been put on a complete halt. The problem is that the document says that the treaty shall automatically be extended for ten years if neither side claims its non-renewal.

In fact, the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea by Russia and the Kremlin’s aggression in eastern Ukrainian Donbas have long crossed out any agreements between the two neighboring states, in particular, those establishing the principles of respect for territorial integrity. This has led to the imposition of sanctions, which no one intends to lift so far.

For the International Court of Justice to at least accept a claim for violation of the provisions of the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty, it is necessary that both Russia and Ukraine recognize the binding nature of the court's decisions on such a claim

But on the other hand, having all opportunities in the world to declare the treaty’s denunciation, Ukraine has done nothing to this end.

The debate has been ongoing in Ukraine since 2014 on the need to cancel the Friendship Treaty, as well as the discussion over the mechanisms and timing of such step. Finally, in 2016, the Ukrainian foreign ministry noted that the agreement should not be terminated, since this document allows Ukraine to file a lawsuit against Russia for violating the treaty’s article on territorial integrity. However, when in the beginning of 2017 the case made it to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, it turned out that the claims put forward by Ukraine concerned the whole different set of issues. It was about Russia's violation of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

This was a rather expected development, since, although the Friendship Treaty formally falls under the ICJ jurisdiction, it also says that all dispute should be resolved bilaterally. In other words, for the International Court of Justice to at least accept a claim for violation of the provisions of the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty, it is necessary that both Russia and Ukraine recognize the binding nature of the court's decisions on such a claim. In addition, it’s UN Security Council which is to monitor the implementation of the court decision. But, unfortunately, Russia still has hope-crushing influence in this organization through its brazenly abused veto right ...

Therefore, it is surprising to witness that, having a real opportunity due to the expiration period to apply to the infamous Friendship Treaty the principle of non-renewal rather than that of denunciation, Ukraine just fails to deliver.

I desperately wish to believe that this is not a result of some malicious intent, but simply because of the forgetfulness of the official Kyiv. I also hope that those in high offices don’t seriously expect to lay low until all terms allowing to stop the automatic process of the treaty’s prolongation expire.

Given that the previous automatic prolongation took place in late 2008, it is probably not too late to make a corresponding written statement and notify Russia of the termination of "friendship and partnership," which has long vanished in ruins.   

Tatiana Urbanskaya