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U.S. lobbyists connect Ukraine officials with powerful allies to help in war against Russia

Firefighters extinguish fire at a damaged residential building that was hit by a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 15, 2022.
Emin Sansar | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Lobbyists are working to connect Ukrainian officials with powerful allies in the U.S., including mayors, governors and representatives of at least one firearm’s dealer in an effort to help the war-torn country in its fight against Russia.

At least one U.S. firm and a separate lawyer each recently disclosed to the Department of Justice’s FARA unit that they started pro-bono work for Ukrainian government officials since the start of Russia’s invasion. The move for these types of advisors to start helping Ukrainian leaders comes as Western sanctions have led to lobbyists distancing themselves from Russian backed entities. The powerful lobbying firm Sidley Austin dropped VTB Bank as a client after the Biden administration sanctioned the financial institution.

Your Global Strategy, a lobbying and communications firm co-founded by international political strategists Shai Franklin and Michael Steiner, are working to connect local Ukrainian government officials with American mayors and governors, Franklin told CNBC in an interview on Tuesday. He later noted that he is the sole lobbyist from Your Global Strategy working on this effort.

Steiner previously worked closely with Russia as the Moscow-Russia CEO for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, winning a special citation from the Russian Federation for “contributions to the development of nationalities,” according to his bio.

Lukas Jan Kaczmarek, a Maryland based lawyer, disclosed that he is trying to help secure weapons and other materials for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense through diplomatic channels. He did not return messages seeking comment.

Your Global’s filing says they’ve helped setup video calls in an informal capacity between Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov and U.S. mayors, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, as well as Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot has also spoken with Terekhov, according to Franklin and press reports.

Franklin said he’s working with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration to help setup the virtual meetings, with the mayors of Odessa and Kyiv are set to speak with other U.S. mayors. There are also calls expected to take place between U.S. governors and local Ukrainian leaders, although Franklin wouldn’t say which state and local officials are set to speak with Ukrainian leaders.

Terekhov, according to the Boston Herald, implored Wu to advocate members of Congress to tighten sanctions on Russia. The paper reported that Terekhov explained to Wu that he made the same plea to Adams during their conversation, which was not open to the press. The U.S. and their allies have already placed major sanctions on Russia, including targeting their central bank.

A spokesperson for Adams did not return a request for comment before publication.

Franklin, who is leading the new Ukrainian effort for the firm, and Steiner, promote on their website that the two met in Crimea almost 15 years ago for “where they co-produced a community-building conference that drew leaders and managers from across the former Soviet Union.” Crimea was invaded and annexed by Russia in 2014.

Kaczmarek describes in his filing how he is attempting to help Ukraine defense officials acquire weapons, with part of his focus on engaging with a representative from the American based gun manufacture Kel-Tec CNC Industries based in Cocoa, Fla.

“On March 3, 2022, I was approached by one of the volunteers inquiring as to whether I could assist Adrian Kellgren, Director of Industrial Production at Kel-Tech CNC Industries, with an expedited export license for a batch of small arms that could no longer be delivered to its intended recipient in Odessa,” Kaczmarek describes in the filing. “I successfully managed to resolve the export license issue for Mr. Kellgren as of March 8, 2022. On March 9, 2022, I verbally offered to assist Mr. Muzylov with the sourcing and acquisition of material for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, and he verbally accepted.”

A representative for Kel-Tec could not be reached.

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