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Ukrainian Firms Seek UN Court’s Aid Over Crimea Losses

FILE – After Yukos shareholder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, shown in 2013, ran afoul of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the company was forced into bankruptcy. Losses blamed on Russia’s government have new sparked legal battles.

Two Ukrainian energy companies have asked a U.N. arbitrator to award them compensation for investments they lost when Russia seized control of the Crimean peninsula, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) said Monday.

The case, brought in June but only now made public, involves gas stations owned by Ukrnafta and Stabil. It is the lastest instance of investors asking international courts to compensate them for losses they blame on the Russian government.

Last year, Igor Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine's richest businessmen, brought a case before the same court seeking some $15 million compensation from Russia for the loss of an airport he owned on the Black Sea peninsula.

Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 after street protests in the Ukrainian capital forced a Moscow-backed president to flee.

In both cases, the plaintiffs alleged that the loss of their assets following Crimea's annexation amounted to a violation of a bilateral investment treaty between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia has declined to contest either case, saying the court has no jurisdiction over the matter. The court will hold hearings over whether it has jurisdiction in July.

In 2014, the PCA awarded a record $50 billion to former shareholders in oil company Yukos. It went bankrupt after controlling shareholder Mikhail Khodorkovsky ran afoul of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the government began demanding payment of huge sums in back taxes.

But a Dutch court last month set aside that ruling, saying the PCA had overstepped its jurisdiction. Both parties have pledged to continue the legal battle, in a sign that even a successful claim can be almost impossible to enforce.