Ukraine asks U.N. judges to order Russia to stop aiding rebels

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THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Ukraine asked the United Nations’ highest court on Monday to order Russia to stop funding and equipping pro-Russian separatists, at the start of a hearing where it hopes to prove Moscow is breaking international law.

Russia denies sending troops or military equipment to eastern Ukraine and is expected to challenge the basis of the case Ukraine has launched at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“Today I stand before the World Court to request protection of the basic human rights of Ukrainian people,” Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal said on the first of four days of hearings.

Zerkal requested an immediate court order to stop what she called Russia’s abuses until the judges have heard the case in full. The U.N. court takes years to hear cases. Although its rulings are final and binding, it has no means of enforcement.

Zerkal’s request for so-called provisional measures, included a halt of transfers of money, weapons, vehicles, equipment, training or personnel to pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian government forces.

“Russian Federation tactics include support for terrorism and acts of racial discrimination, as well as propaganda, subversion, intimidation, political corruption and cyber attacks,” she told the judges, citing new attacks in recent weeks..

Ukraine says in its filing that the pro-Russian separatists were responsible for the bombardment of residential areas and the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014 that killed 298 passengers and crew.

In September 2016, a six-country investigative team led by the Netherlands said the plane had been shot down with a Russian-manufactured Buk surface-to-air missile from an area controlled by pro-Russian forces.

Russia has dismissed the findings as biased and politically motivated.

Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Robin Pomeroy