In what can be construed as a case of history repeating itself, the ongoing events in the Russia-Ukraine conflict since February 2022 have their genesis in previous roots of discord between the two countries after the latter’s independence from the former in 1991.
A case in point that throws President Putin’s designs on Ukraine into sharp relief was Russia’s attempt to throw a spanner in the works of the EU’s 2009 ‘Association Agreement’ with Ukraine as part of an Eastern Partnership to forge ties with former Soviet countries.
In the winter of 2013, as part of its appeasement process, Russia loaned $3 billion to Ukraine. The loan was meant to dissuade Ukraine from concluding its long-planned association with the EU.
However, the decision to accede to Russia’s demand was not a very popular one in Ukraine, ultimately leading to the Revolution of Dignity and the collapse of Yanukovych’s regime. Things moved fast from there as Russia canceled its economic support and escalated its aggression, including an illegal military invasion of Crimea and interference in the Donbas, causing significant human suffering and economic damage.
Things came to a head when the bonds matured in 2015, and Ukraine refused to pay, leading to a legal battle. The trial court did not accept Ukraine’s ‘duress’ defense—advanced by Quinn Emanuel as counsel for Ukraine—but the Court of Appeal overturned that decision, and the UK Supreme Court has now agreed. The outcome of the case will determine whether Russia’s actions towards Ukraine constituted duress that voided Ukraine’s contractual obligation to repay the debt, and it is set to go to trial in London. This fascinating case raises a number of interesting legal issues, which are laid out in greater detail in a recent note you can read here.