Ukrainian Zelenskiy hires US law firm for sanctions advice

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

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

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

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

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The United States, the European Union and Britain have imposed a series of sanctions targeting Russia, its financial institutions, its oligarchs and its parliament since Russia invaded Ukraine last month. The filing did not say whether there are any specific penalties the company will provide guidance on.

The company said it would help Zelenskiy engage with US officials on evolving political issues, but did not provide details.

Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

The Ukrainian government hired at least two more American law firms after the Russian invasion.

Washington-based Covington & Burling is representing Ukraine in the International Court of Justice, winning a ruling this month ordering Russia to halt its military operations. Lawyers for Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan 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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