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U.S. Law Firm Paid Millions To Former Ukrainian Prime Minister To Avoid Lawsuit, Says Report


Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister, received a settlement from a U.S. law firm to avoid a suit, The New York Times reported. (file photo)

An international law firm based in New York paid at least $11 million to avoid being sued by Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister, according to The New York Times in a story published on May 10.

The law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom paid the money after Tymoshenko accused the company of writing a report that was used to help justify her imprisonment by a political rival, the Times reported

Tymoshenko was imprisoned from 2011-14 on abuse of office charges that the international community widely condemned as politically motivated. In 2012 the New York law firm started representing Viktor Yanukovych’s Moscow-aligned government and produced a report that Yanukovych’s supporters used to condone Tymoshenko’s imprisonment.

She was released after Yanukovych’s government fell in 2014 amid protests against corruption and the government's shift toward Moscow.

Tymoshenko told the Times in a 2018 interview that “it was very painful” to hear about Skadden’s work while she was in prison. She accused the law firm of “whitewashing Yanukovych and his government” for money.

'Dirty Contract'

“It’s a pity that such a well-known company like Skadden even considered to take this case to deliver,” she said in 2018. “This is a dirty, dirty, dirty contract.”

Tymoshenko reportedly hired the law firm Reid Collins & Tsai after the Times interview to determine if it was possible to sue Skadden over the report, two people familiar with the arrangement told the Times.

Skadden paid $11 million or more to settle before a suit was filed, people familiar with the settlement said, according to the Times. Tymoshenko and her lawyer, Sergei Vlasenko, who has also claimed he was treated unfairly by the Yanukovych government, each received about $5.5 million from the firm between July and last month, the report said.

Tymoshenko, in a Facebook post on May 4, referred to a settlement.

"Yes, the other day I received monetary compensation for damage caused by political repression of 2011-2014...from a U.S. resident in the stage of pre-trial settlement. This suggests that the United States is a truly legal state, and human rights are not empty sound to them, but true value," Tymoshenko wrote.

She said she managed to achieve justice and said it was more proof that her imprisonment was political.

Tymoshenko said she declared the income as required by law and no other details would be released "due to legislative regulation in the United States regarding legal restrictions in the case."

The Times said records filed with the Ukrainian government accounting for the sums do not mention Skadden, which declined to comment for the Times story.

It has previously publicly defended its Ukraine work as an independent assessment that did not absolve Yanukovych of wrongdoing. The report concluded that, while Tymoshenko’s trial violated some of her rights, her conviction was supported by the evidence presented at trial. And the report found no evidence that the prosecution was politically motivated.

Neither Vlasenko nor Skadden responded to RFE/RL’s request for comment.

William T. Reid, IV, a founding member of Reid Collins & Tsai, said in an e-mail to The Hill that the firm was unable to comment but could confirm Tymoshenko was a client of the firm. Reid did not respond to an e-mail request for comment from RFE/RL.

Last year, Skadden paid the Department of Justice $4.6 million to settle an investigation into whether the law firm’s work with Ukraine violated foreign lobbying laws.

With reporting by The New York Times and The Hill
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