The battle for legal legitimacy in Crimea

4 March 2014

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Professor Ben Saul
Professor Ben Saul

The legality of Russia's military incursion into Crimea is as much a question about power as it is about legal principle, and that's where the claims of legitimacy ultimately fall down, writes Professor Ben Saul.

In an opinion piece published on ABC's The Drum, Professor Saul writes that under the international law on the use of force, encoded in Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter of 1945, countries are generally prohibited from using military force against other countries.

"There are narrow exceptions where a country uses force in self-defence against an armed attack, or where the UN Security Council has explicitly authorised the use of force to restore international peace and security.

"Ukraine has not attacked Russia so Russia is not acting in self-defence as it is conventionally understood. The Security Council also has not authorised the Russian action. This is not, however, the end of the legal question."

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