Jun 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ukrainian billionaire taps K Street to fight Russian seizures

A Russian serviceman inspects an underground tunnel at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine, on June 13, 2022. Photo: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty Images

A company owned by Ukraine's wealthiest man has engaged a top D.C. public affairs firm to press U.S. policymakers to address Russia's theft of the country's natural resources, records show.

Why it matters: The lobbying and public relations effort is part of a broader campaign by the Ukrainian businessman, Rinat Akhmetov, to combat Russian seizures of Ukrainian goods that have contributed to global resource shortages.

  • Akhmetov filed a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights on Monday accusing Russia of illegal seizures of his companies' assets, including steel mills and coal mines.
  • Those assets include the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where entrenched Ukrainian forces battled Russia for over a month before surrendering in May.

What's happening: In Washington, Akhmetov's company, SCM Consulting Limited, has hired the DCI Group to press for U.S. government action, according to foreign agent filings on Monday.

  • DCI will work "to expose the ongoing theft of Ukrainian steel, grain, and minerals by Russia, and to advocate for policies that will halt the trade in stolen Ukrainian steel, grain and minerals," the firm told the Justice Department.
  • A DCI spokesperson declined to provide additional details on its work, but said it's "an important geopolitical issue and we're proud to partner with SCM on it."

The big picture: The Russian invasion, and its military's seizure of large segments of Ukrainian territory, has stunted Ukrainian production of goods including steel, coal and grain.

  • That's contributed to skyrocketing prices and supply shortages in Europe in particular.

Between the lines: Akhmetov accuses Russian forces of illegally seizing Ukrainian steel and other goods to mitigate its own supply shortages resulting from widespread economic and export sanctions.

  • His ECHR lawsuit, Akhmetov said in a statement, "is one of the first international legal steps against Russia to stop their ongoing crimes, destruction of the Ukrainian economy and the plundering of Ukrainian assets."

Be smart: It's not clear what U.S. policymakers can do to punish or reverse those asset seizures.

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