24 Jun 2022

Quinn Emanuel files $80bn damages claim for Ukraine over Russian invasion

US disputes specialist teams up with Ukrainian firm and UK barristers to launch Strasbourg proceedings

IRPIN, UKRAINE - Mar. 05, 2022: War in Ukraine. People cross a destroyed bridge as they evacuate the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, during heavy shelling and bombing

People crossing a destroyed bridge as they evacuate the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv Drop of Light;shuttertock

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has filed an $80bn claim on behalf of Ukraine against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. 

Quinn is acting for Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice together with local firm Asters alongside counsel from London’s Blackstone Chambers, led by Timothy Otty QC, and Twenty Essex Street, led by Guglielmo Verdirame QC. 

London partners Alex Gerbi and Julianne Hughes-Jennett are leading the team being fielded by Quinn, which is a longstanding adviser to Ukraine and was appointed counsel for human rights proceedings relating to the invasion in March. 

Ukraine is seeking compensation for violations of the European Convention of Human Rights arising from Russia’s invasion from February 2022 to the retreat of Russian ground forces from around Kyiv and northern Ukraine in April 2022. 

The claim will litigate issues around losses of life, injury and trauma, population displacement and property damage on a scale not seen in Europe since the Second World War with Russia accused of breaching all applicable norms of international law.

The proceedings against Russia, which is not expected to defend the case, relate to the period during which it remained a member of Council of Europe, and with it the ECtHR. Russia exited  both bodies in March 2022, although it would have been expelled by the Council if it had not done so.

Russian parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin told state media in June that the ECtHR was "in the hands of Western politicians [and was] an instrument of political struggle against our country”.

While ECtHR court rulings are only binding on member states, the court anticipated Russia’s withdrawal by restating its jurisdiction over Russia, subject to claims being filed prior to the official withdrawal date in September. 

Further claims are anticipated before the autumn, although enforcing any ruling will present its own challenges. Russia ignored the court’s interim measures against Russia for the invasion in March 2022. 

Quinn said the court would be “invited to find that Russia has been guilty of the most flagrant, serious and sustained violations of the Convention ever placed before [it]” and thanked its partners in bringing the filing “for their excellent and unstinting support”.

Ukrainian Minister of Justice, Denys Maliuska said the litigation was “aimed at the speedy cessation of the horrendous and massive violations of human rights that Russia is committing”.

Both states were in ongoing 2021 ECtHR litigation over a variety of post-Crimean invasion grievances, including the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airways MH17, which Russia sought to blame Ukraine for. 

The Dutch government, however, brought its own claim against Russia, holding it wholly responsible for that tragedy. The Russian litigation was derided by Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice as a propaganda stunt. 

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