Ukraine’s Zelenskiy hires U.S. law firm for sanctions advice

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the members of Danish Parliament via video link, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 29, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

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WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office has hired an American law firm to advise on Western sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion and help engage with U.S. officials on policy matters, according to a filing with the U.S. Justice Department.

San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster will counsel Zelenskiy’s office on regulatory issues “including U.S., EU and UK sanctions regimes,” John Smith, a partner in the firm, said in the Monday filing.

Smith led the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which oversees American sanctions, before joining Morrison & Foerster in 2018. Smith said in the filing that Morrison & Foerster will perform the work at no cost to Ukraine.

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The United States, European Union and Britain have imposed a series of sanctions targeting Russia, its financial institutions, oligarchs and parliament since Russia invaded Ukraine last month. The filing did not make clear whether there are specific sanctions about which the firm will provide advice.

The firm said it will help Zelenskiy engage with U.S. officials on evolving policy matters, but did not provide specifics.

Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. law requires law firms, lobbyists and others to disclose certain advocacy work for foreign clients. Morrison & Foerster has not previously registered to represent a foreign entity, according to the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act database.

Ukraine’s government has hired at least two other U.S. law firms following the Russian invasion.

Covington & Burling, headquartered in Washington, is representing Ukraine before the International Court of Justice, obtaining a ruling this month instructing Russia to stop its military operations. Attorneys at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, founded in Los Angeles, are representing Ukraine before the European Court of Human Rights in a case accusing Russia of human rights abuses.

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Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen and Mike Scarcella in Washington
Editing by Will Dunham and David Bario

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