The UBA’s position regarding the deprivation of Viktor Medvedchuk of the right to practice as a lawyer

On January 30, 2023, two Ukrainian lawyers, Ilya Kostin and Roman Tytykalo, filed a complaint with the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of Kyiv City Bar Association (which was later forwarded to the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of the Kyiv Regional Bar Association) regarding the deprivation of Viktor Volodymyrovych Medvedchuk of the right to practice law.

Since the beginning of the full-scale war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the main task and goal of the Ukrainian Bar Association (the UBA, Association), the absolute priority and value that unites the legal community, has been the restoration of the rule of law in Ukraine, which was leveled in connection with Russia’s military aggression. The challenges faced by the UBA and all other organizations under conditions of war are unprecedented and require, among other things, a clear definition of the position regarding the persons who play a role and can influence the course of the war and its consequences.

Given the above, as well as the facts of V. Medvedchuk's activities presented in the appeal, which may be the basis for bringing him to disciplinary responsibility for violating the attorney's oath and the Rules of the lawyer’s ethics, the UBA considers it necessary to express its position on the specified issue.

V. Medvedchuk received the certificate of the right to practice law No. 1 dated 25.03.1994 according to the decision of the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of Kyiv City Bar Association dated 20.01.1994. Before receiving the certificate, V. Medvedchuk took the attorney’s oath, according to which he undertook to "in his professional activity strictly comply with the legislation of Ukraine, international acts on human rights and freedoms, the rules of lawyer's ethics,... everywhere and always protect the purity of the title of a lawyer, to be faithful to the Oath."

V. Medvedchuk's right to practice as a lawyer was suspended by Clause 1, Part 1, Article 31 of the Law "On the Bar and Practice of Law" on August 14, 2019, based on his application.

The principle of compliance with the legislation of Ukraine and international acts requires the recognition of Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability, which are enshrined in both national legislation and international legal acts. In accordance with Part 4 of Art. 2 of the UN Charter, the non-use of force or the threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any other way incompatible with the goals of the UN is an imperative principle of international relations. Moreover, actions, including public appeals, aimed at the violent change or overthrow of the constitutional order or at the seizure of state power, are a crime in accordance with Article 109 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

According to Art. 12 of the Lawyer's Ethics Rules (Rules), with all his/her activities, a lawyer must assert respect for the lawyer profession, which he/she represents, its essence and public purpose, and contribute to preserving and increasing respect for it in society. According to Art. 2 of the Rules, a lawyer is obliged to observe this principle in all spheres of activity: professional, public, publicistic, etc.

Art. 53 of the Rules states that a lawyer must avoid publicizing in the mass media or disseminating in other ways (including through the Internet, and social networks) information that ... disgraces him or the lawyer's office / attorneys’ association or the bar of Ukraine.

According to Art. 56 of the Rules, in his/her journalistic materials (articles, publications, etc.) and public speeches, a lawyer must not disseminate information that disgraces the honor, dignity, or business reputation of other lawyers or the prestige of the legal profession as such.

The legal community believes that V. Medvedchuk violated the attorney’s oath and the aforementioned provisions of the Rules of Lawyer’s Ethics. The UBA came to this conclusion based on the following considerations.

For example, in January 2023, V. Medvedchuk gave a series of interviews in which he denied the existence of an independent, sovereign, and democratic Ukraine and justified the war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

In particular, in an interview with the propaganda TV channel of the Russian Federation, RT, V. Medvedchuk stated the following: "Ukraine has actually ceased to exist as a state today, because Ukraine as a state must, in accordance with the basic law, be independent, sovereign, democratic, social and legal. None of these signs, noted in the Constitution of Ukraine, apply to the fact of the state machine, which is criminally headed by Zelenskyy, his regime, his entourage" (watch from 57:05 min./sec.).

In the same video, V. Medvedchuk accuses the authorities of Ukraine and Ukraine's Western partners of starting the war: "The Western ideology that was imposed... since 2005... and its imposition on the Ukrainian people all these years was fed and fueled by Western money, Western ideology and the so-called Western democracy, which ultimately, we see, resulted in the death of thousands, tens of thousands of people, the destruction of Ukraine and the struggle that Zelenskyy continues at the head of criminal power, and carrying out his criminal activities until the last Ukrainian" (watch from 28:00 min./sec.).

V. Medvedchuk keeps on repeating the propaganda of Russian officials and asserts the existence of a so-called "neo-Nazi regime" in Ukraine: "De facto there is no state, because the policy of neo-Nazism, which Zelenskyy and his entourage espouse, is at the heart of state policy. And while neo-Nazism will dominate, I believe that is not only incorrect, it is wrong to talk about the future of such a country”.

Moreover, V. Medvedchuk openly denies the fact that Russia is an aggressor state and justifies its armed aggression against Ukraine. In particular, answering the question about who is to blame for the launch of the conflict in 2014, he answered: "I do not consider Russia to be the aggressor in this situation... The conflict that took place and was launched somewhere at the end of March - the beginning of April in Donbas, was a conflict between people who were in Donbas and who did not agree with the arrival of the new government and the politicians of the new government. It was a protest... This was a confrontation between citizens of one part of the country against others" (watch from 5:50 min./sec.). In his article published in the Russian online media "Izvestia", V. Medvedchuk justified the war against Ukraine by the need for Russia to protect "not only its economic interests but also its international honor and dignity."

The following statements also deserve attention: "I do not consider [Russia to be an aggressor]" or: "However, they [Macron, Merkel, and Zelenskyy] refused from [fulfillment of the Minsk agreements], and Zelenskyy was the first to refuse, because of their attitude, their political will are single-minded and aimed at one thing -  carrying out hostilities, creating a bridgehead for confronting Russia at the behest and at the will of the West and Ukraine for Russia to have problems. And Russia continued to defend the interests of the people who lived in these territories" (watch from 26:40 min./sec.).

In 2021, Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council introduced sanctions against V. Medvedchuk. Since 2014, he has also been under US sanctions for actions that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine. In January 2023, the President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy deprived him of Ukrainian citizenship, and the Verkhovna Rada voted to deprive him of his parliamentary mandate.

Currently, the Lychakiv District Court of Lviv city is considering the court case against V. Medvedchuk on charges of treason and looting of national values.

And on September 15, 2022, the Administrative Court of Cassation (KAS) as part of the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the political party "OPZZH" headed by V. Medvedchuk and, thus, finally banned its activities in Ukraine. The decision of the KAS of the Supreme Court was adopted based on the Presidential Decree and the decision of the National Security Council dated 18.04.2022 and 19.03.2022, respectively, by which it was decided to stop any activity of "OPZZH" for the period of martial law, "given [its] anti-Ukrainian political and organizational activities, propaganda of war, public statements and calls to change the constitutional system by violent means, real threats of violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, undermining its security, etc.”

V. Medvedchuk's personal relationship with Russian President V. Putin is well-known, which was once again confirmed by the Russian Federation's agreement to exchange 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war for V. Medvedchuk.

The above demonstrates that V. Medvedchuk publicly supports the actions of the Russian Federation, and does not recognize the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and constitutional system of Ukraine, thereby calling into question the entire activity of the bar and justice system of Ukraine to counter aggression. In the opinion of the UBA, such a position is incompatible with the status of a lawyer and harms the reputation of the bar and the legal profession in Ukraine in general.

The above-mentioned statements of V. Medvedchuk, in the opinion of the UBA, are at least a violation of the lawyer's oath in terms of the obligation to "observe the legislation of Ukraine, international acts on human rights and freedoms, the rules of lawyer’s ethics, and fulfill the duties assigned [to the lawyer] with high civic responsibility" and violation of Articles 12, 53 and 56 of the Rules of Lawyer’s Ethics.

According to Clause 4, Part 1, Art. 32 of the Law of Ukraine "On the Bar and Practice of Law" (the Law), the right to practice law is terminated by the annulment of the certificate of the right to practice law in the event of a disciplinary sanction being imposed on the lawyer in the form of deprivation of him/her of the right to practice law.

According to clauses 1 and 4 of part 2 of Art. 32 of the Law, the imposition of a disciplinary sanction on a lawyer in the form of deprivation of the right to practice law can be applied exclusively in the case of violation of the oath of an attorney of Ukraine and/or systematic or gross one-time violation of the rules of lawyer’s ethics, which undermines the authority of the Ukrainian bar.

Based on the above, the UBA supports the appeal of I. Kostin and R. Tytykalo to the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of the Kyiv Regional Bar Association regarding the disciplinary offenses of the lawyer V. Medvedchuk with a request to deprive him of the right to practice law.

Together for victory! Glory to Ukraine!

The full text of the UBA's statement is available via the link.

Do you have an interesting idea for an event?