KYIV - April 5, 2022. 4 April 2022 marks the 40th day of war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. While the Ukrainian army resists the aggression, the Ukrainian population and economy are suffering from vast-scale damages inflicted by indiscriminate shelling, bombing, deportation and disappearance of civilians, and other atrocities. The recent liberation of Bucha and other cities of the Kyiv region revealed a horrible picture – mass killing and torture of civilians, mass graves, rape, and other crimes made the world shiver. There are no reasons to suspect that situation in other cities of Ukraine that are currently under Russian occupation or siege is any different.
Since the beginning of the war, more than 500 foreign businesses and law firms have decided to withdraw from Russia as a sign of protest against illegal aggression and in support of the people of Ukraine. Ukrainian Government and people welcome such an approach since economic isolation of the Russian Federation is the only alternative to a lengthy and exhausting war and consequent occupation of the Ukrainian territory. Unfortunately, there are still companies who continue business as usual or, while cutting investment, go on with significant business operations.
The legal community is instrumental in supporting the operations and functioning of big businesses that are still present in the Russian Federation. Indirectly, legal services enable the good well-being of such companies and, consequently, enable the war. In contrast, cutting the chain of services and supplies that are vital for businesses operating in Russia, will have a strong effect and will encourage withdrawal.
As legal service providers with high ethical standards, practically all Ukrainian law firms have already ceased providing legal advice to Russian businesses and individuals. In a recent statement, more than 70 Ukrainian law firms also informed on their decision to suspend legal services to international businesses still present in Russia, unless and until such businesses unequivocally announce their complete or essential withdrawal.
Although the rule of law principle protects the right to legal advice and representation for all, it also requires every individual to obey and submit to the law. In the circumstances of the situation in which Ukraine and the world find themselves, activities of legal communities should pursue the objectives of restoring the rule of law in Ukraine and stopping atrocities that are being committed by the Russian Government with the support of Russian and international business. The UBA believes that the rule of law principle affords lawyers with a choice to refuse or terminate contracts with clients who directly or indirectly support or finance the war of aggression. Lawyers can decide not to take on new clients for any reason, including ethical reasons.
IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, THE UKRAINIAN BAR ASSOCIATION URGES:
- FOREIGN LAW FIRMS – to terminate and deny any legal services not only to Russian businesses but also to international companies who continue operating in the Russian Federation, thus supporting the state budget of the Russian Federation;
- LEGAL ASSOCIATIONS – to support UBA’s stance and encourage their members to terminate and deny legal services to Russian businesses and international companies who continue operating in the Russian Federation, as well as discourage – by whatever means possible, including public statements – foreign companies from continuing business in Russia;
- REGULATORS OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION – to update relevant regulations whereby explain that ethical considerations of law firms and of individual lawyers is a valid reason for refusing and terminating legal services to businesses who continue operating in the Russian Federation and thus support Russian military machinery. Lawyers’ and law firms’stance on the war in Ukraine andvolunteering/fundraising activities might amount to a conflict of interests, in which case termination and denial of legal services is a logical choice and a natural response.
The full text of the appeal is available by the link.