24 Feb 2022

'Pray for Ukraine and Ukrainian people' – Arzinger Law Office defiant as IBA condemns 'illegal' Russian invasion

Baker McKenzie, CMS, Dentons and Kinstellar close local branches as they prioritise staff safety

Kharkiv, Ukraine - January, 31, 2022: A column of armored personnel carriers rides on a winter road. Ukraine prepares to defend its country from Russian invasion

31 January: Ukraine prepares to defend its country from Russian invasion Shutterstock; Seneline

A leading Kyiv-based law firm this morning issued a defiant statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as representatives of the international legal community denounced it as a clear violation of international law and international firms closed their local offices.

'Some hours ago Putin officially declared war on Ukraine, the shellings have started in Kyiv and Eastern part of Ukraine,' Arzinger Law Office founding and managing partner Timur Bondaryev wrote on LinkedIn as news of the invasion broke. 'Pray for Ukraine and Ukrainian people…'

In a statement the firm said it would do its best to keep its operations in its locations in Kyiv, L'viv and Odesa 'ongoing as long as possible' .

It added: 'BUT we don’t know how the situation will develop on the ground and cannot exclude some communication interruptions should infrastructure fail. We ask for your understanding, that for obvious reasons our priorities have shifted at the moment and responses on business matters may take some time.'

The International Bar Association condemned the invasion 'in the strongest terms'.

IBA President Sternford Moyo said: "This act by President Putin is a watershed moment that indisputably violates international law. Member States of the United Nations have, since 1945, agreed that territory should only change hands by consent. This rule is at the centre of maintaining international law and order among states. The IBA, founded to protect and promote the rule of law, strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine." 

Meanwhile, international firms Baker McKenzie, CMS, Dentons and Taylor Wessing all confirmed today that they have closed their Kyiv offices as they look to prioritise staff safety and assemble remote and regional teams to continue advising clients.

'We are closely monitoring developments at all times and are doing everything possible to support our people during these challenging circumstances,' Bakers said in a statement. 

'Their safety and wellbeing is our number one priority and our thoughts are with them and everyone affected at this extremely difficult time. To the extent feasible, our partners are working with clients affected to determine the options for continuing to provide legal assistance elsewhere, and we are providing further support through our network of offices across Europe.'

CMS said it was 'concerned and deeply saddened by the situation emerging in Ukraine'. It added: 'We have a dedicated team that have been working to assist colleagues in Kyiv for some time, particularly as issues started to emerge, and we continue to explore arrangements in what is a fast moving situation. Although our communication lines remain open, we have made the decision to close our Kyiv office until further notice. Our thoughts are with our colleagues, clients and friends during this difficult time. We, like many, hope for a peaceful resolution to this conflict.'

Dentons said: 'We are in regular contact with our team in Kyiv and are providing our colleagues with any assistance they need, including relocation assistance in the neighboring countries.  Once safely relocated, our Ukrainian team will be working remotely or from other Dentons offices to serve the needs of our clients.'

Raimund Cancola, Taylor Wessing’s managing partner for CEE, said: "We are in touch and doing everything we can to support our colleagues and clients in Kyiv at this extremely difficult and concerning time. The wellbeing of our people is always of the highest priority. 

“We are keeping in close touch with our clients and have assured them that we are able to continue to support them with their legal needs as required, including through our other offices in the CEE region.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and adapt our approach as needed. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by these events."

Prominent European firm Kinstellar said the imposition of martial law in Ukraine meant it had likewise closed its office in Kyiv but that the team continues to work remotely.

The firm's managing partner Patrik Bolf and senior partner Jason Mogg said in a joint statement: “Today marks a dramatic escalation of the already extremely difficult situation in Ukraine. Our commitment to our team and our clients in Ukraine is very strong and our thoughts are with our team in Kyiv and all the people of Ukraine at this time.”

The Arzinger Law Office statement said the Ukrainian people 'are united, we stand tall and our army is as strong as never before, having been perfectly trained, supplied & supported by our international partners'.

It called on other countries to 'finally wake up, face the reality to stop the Russian monster'.

 

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