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Covington Represents Ukraine in Securing Favorable Ruling Under U.N. Law of the Sea Convention

February 21, 2020

WASHINGTON—Covington secured a major ruling for Ukraine in an arbitration against the Russian Federation under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The ruling, issued today by a five-member arbitral tribunal, rejected the majority of Russia’s jurisdictional objections and permits Ukraine’s case to proceed to the merits.

“The Tribunal’s jurisdictional ruling is another success for Ukraine and a victory for the rule of law,” said Marney Cheek, co-chair of Covington’s International Arbitration Practice and counsel for Ukraine. “It confirms that Russia must answer for its unlawful actions at sea.”

The UNCLOS Tribunal’s Award on Jurisdiction is the latest in a series of successes for Ukraine, in each case represented by Covington. In November 2019, Ukraine obtained a Judgment from the International Court of Justice rejecting Russia’s jurisdictional objections to Ukraine’s case under treaties concerning terrorism financing and racial discrimination. And, in May 2019, Ukraine secured historic provisional measures from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, ordering the release of three naval vessels and twenty-four servicemen Russia had detained.

“Today’s award allows Ukraine’s significant case under UNCLOS to move forward,” said Jonathan Gimblett, a partner in Covington’s London office and counsel for Ukraine. “Russia’s interference with freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov and its illegal construction of the Kerch Bridge, among other claims, will now move forward to the merits.” The Tribunal declined jurisdiction over Ukraine's claims related to its coastal state rights in waters offshore Crimea.

In addition to Ms. Cheek and Mr. Gimblett, the Covington team is led by partners David Zionts and Nikhil Gore, Professor Harold Hongju Koh of Yale Law School, Professor Alfred H.A. Soons of Utrecht University School of Law, and Professor Jean-Marc Thouvenin of Paris-Nanterere University. Other Covington attorneys on the team are associates Clovis Trevino, Julia Brower, George M. Mackie, Megan O’Neill, Lisa Ann Johnson, and Alexandra Francis, and special legal consultant Volodymyr Shkilevych.

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