UK Supreme Court backs Ukraine over Russian 'duress' loan

LONDON, United Kingdom - Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky declared a "decisive victory" over Russia in a UK court after judges ruled Wednesday that a long-running financial dispute can go to a full trial.

The Supreme Court in London rejected a bid by a Russian-backed investment trust to throw out the case, which concerns a $3 billion loan taken out in 2013, without a trial.

"Today Ukraine secured another decisive victory against the aggressor, this time in the UK Supreme Court in the $3bn bonds case," Zelensky tweeted.

He said the court had ruled that Ukraine's defence based on Russia's "threats of aggression will have a full public trial".

"Justice will be ours," he added.

Ukraine's finance ministry called the decision "a great victory of justice and the rule of law".

Ukraine argues that it was forced to issue the Eurobonds to Russia under duress, shortly before Moscow invaded Crimea in 2014. 

The bonds were meant to be repaid in December 2015. 

But Ukraine refused, contending that Russia had sought to deflect it from closer engagement with the European Union by binding it into an unfair arrangement. 

Russia brought the case in February 2016, arguing it was only suing "after repeated unsuccessful attempts to engage Ukraine in constructive dialogue about restructuring the debt". 

A lower court in the UK had endorsed Russia's attempt to throw out the Ukrainian defence. 

But that was overturned on appeal, and a panel of five judges on the Supreme Court unanimously sided with Kyiv, agreeing with the appeals court that Ukraine has "an arguable and justiciable defence of duress".

Their judgement concerns only the circumstances of the loan at the time, and not Russia's invasion of the rest of Ukraine last year.

There was no immediate response from Moscow. No trial date has been set yet.