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Ukraine updates: UN court to rule on lawsuit against Russia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is to decide whether it has jurisdiction over Ukraine's case against Russia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is to decide whether it has jurisdiction over Ukraine's case against Russia

The United Nations' top court will decide on Friday whether it has jurisdiction to rule on a case brought by Ukraine over Russia's February 2022 invasion.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the European Union's approval of a major aid deal for Ukraine was a "clear signal" both to Russia and the United States, where an assistance package has been held up in Congress.

Here's a look at the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, February 2:

Sacking commander-in-chief would be 'unpopular decision'

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy reportedly rowed back on a threat to dismiss Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi earlier this week after the top general refused to resign and potential replacements declined to take on the role.

Orysia Lutsevyc, deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program and head of the Ukraine Forum at the think tank Chatham House, said dismissing Zaluzhnyi would be an "unpopular decision."

Speaking to DW, Lutsevyc stressed the commander-in-chief's popularity within Ukraine.

"General Zaluzhnyi is hugely popular. He is almost a legend, right? Few people [have] actually seen him alive, but he is this mystic figure. He is also extremely popular among the soldiers on the battlefield for his approach to save life, to protect his troops and to mitigate this politics of war, where, you know, political tasks on the battlefield do not cause a catastrophe on the battlefield."

Lutsevyc said that sacking him would be the first time for Zelenskyy to go "against the popular will" since the start of the war.

"He will have to carefully explain it because he may be blamed for undermining the war effort and unity inside Ukraine. So it's very critical how this is done and what are the public reasons that are communicated to wider society about this critical move."

UN court to make jurisdiction ruling in Ukraine case against Russia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday is due to make a preliminary ruling on jurisdiction in a case filed by Ukraine against Russia.

The highest court of the United Nations is expected to decide whether it is authorized to open main proceedings in this case.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24, 2022, part of his reasoning was that pro-Russian people in eastern Ukraine had been "subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kyiv regime."

Two days into the invasion, Ukraine filed a suit at the ICJ, "emphatically denying" this and arguing that Russia's use of "genocide" as a pretext went against the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

In a preliminary ruling in March 2022, the ICJ sided with Ukraine and ordered Russia to halt its invasion immediately. But Russia objected to this judgement, saying the Hague-based ICJ, which decides on disputes between states, had no legal right to decide in this case.

Only on Wednesday, the same court had largely dismissed another case brought by Ukraine against Russia in 2017 and acquitted Russia of the accusation of financing terrorism in eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskyy thanks EU for 'long-awaited' aid package

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has thanked the European Union for approving €50 billion ($54 billion) worth of aid, which he said would send a "clear signal" to Russia.

"Today the EU has made a long-awaited decision," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address. "This is a clear signal to Moscow that Europe will withstand and that Europe will not be broken," he said.

"At the same time, it is a clear signal across the Atlantic, a signal that Europe is assuming its responsibilities. Security responsibilities. Strong responsibilities. We await decisions from America," Zelenskyy added.

Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said that the Ukrainian government expected this year to receive €18 billion of the €50 billion, four-year EU package approved on Thursday. The first tranche of €4.5 billion is expected in March.

Two French nationals killed in Russian strike in Ukraine

Two French nationals were killed and three other foreigners wounded in Beryslav, near the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, according to Ukrainian officials.

"Foreign volunteers were killed and injured as a result of an enemy strike on Beryslav," Kherson region governor Oleksandr Prokudin wrote on Telegram.

Prokudin did not specify the exact duties of the volunteers, but he described them using a Ukrainian word that typically refers to workers from humanitarian organizations.

"The Russian army killed two French citizens. Three more foreigners received minor injuries," he said, offering his "sincere condolences to the families of the dead."

The Ukrainian national police also reported that two men of French nationality had died as a result of a drone attack and that four others had been injured.

dh/jsi (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)