University of Manchester on a spring morning

Manchester International Law Centre meet while Russia continues with invasion of Ukraine

  • Manchester International Law Centre condemns Russia for military invasion of Ukraine
  • "Claims that Russia is responding to genocide is…nothing more than a smokescreen for its serious violations of international law."

Manchester International Law Centre has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine saying that it is hardly justifiable under international law.

Dr Gail Lythgoe, co-director of the the centre, hosted the event at The University of Manchester, to discuss international law as it relates to the invasion of Ukraine. 

Dr Gail Lythgoe hosts MILC to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Credit: Sandika Rannulu Mendis De Zoysa

She was joined by Dr Rebecca Mignot-Mahdavi who explained that under the UN charter there is no legal basis for Russian action in Ukraine, stating that “none of [Russia’s] justifications are convincing.” 

Mignot-Mahdavi dismissed the fragile legal arguments put forward to justify the invasion.

Putin has argued that invasion was necessary to ‘protect’ Ukrainians from other Ukrainians, using spurious allegations of genocide, and more recently accusing Ukraine of attempting to use chemical weapons.

She called Putin’s justifications “vulgar uses of the international legal framework”  and that “even if protection of nationals in Ukraine were generally accepted, it would not fit the criteria as there was no imminent threat to the people of Ukraine”.

Dr Rebecca Mignot-Mahdavi speaks on Russian invasion of Ukraine
Credit: Sandika Rannulu Mendis De Zoysa

“Finally, Russia’s actions would need to be proportionate to the threat.”  Full scale military intervention is not proportional to the threats posed.


Professor of public international law, Iain Scobbie, joined the meeting via video link and spoke about the potential violation of international conventions committed by the Russian military.

 Specifically, there is concern the Russian military is disguising soldiers as Ukrainian military or as civilians.  If this is the case, those soldiers risk losing their combative privilege and could theoretically be criminally charged for murder, he said.

“When we get to people operating in civilian territory in civilian clothes, they are not entitled to prisoner of war status,” he stated.

A photograph of the University of Manchester bathed in morning daylight
The University of Manchester

Silver lining?

During his address, Professor Jean d’Aspremont, chair in public international law at the University of Manchester, found a legal silver lining, pointing out that Putin is appealing to international law in his justifications for the invasion, rather than behaving extra-legally.

This meant that while Putin’s actions are widely condemned by the international legal community, he is not simply ignoring his legal obligations. 

His justifications, while ‘vulgar’,  are based on the international legal framework, sid Profesoir d’Aspremont.

The Manchester International Law Centre released a statement: “The purported claim that Russia is responding to genocide is without discernible foundation as it is nothing more than a smokescreen for its serious violations of international law.

“We deplore the continuing and manifest violations of the charter of the United Nations, including the prohibition of annexation and colonization, as well as violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

“International law applies to all states equally and without exception.”