Burson-Marsteller UK and the Ukrainian taxpayer
The First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin is back on his travels. On Tuesday he visited London where he asserted that Ukrainian legislation and judicial proceedings were undergoing reform to bring them into line with European standards. Kuzmin however said that he did not see the possibility for review of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko’s release. Their release together with an end to selective prosecutions of opposition figures remain the main requirement for Ukraine’s leaders if the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is to be signed.
Kuzmin’s meeting with analysts and representatives of law firms was organized by both the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK and by a representative of Burson-Marsteller UK
This UK-based a subsidiary of WPP states that its purpose is to “serve clients and help them achieve their desired business results through Evidence-Based communications”
With respect to transparency, it has the following to say:
“We undertake to be transparent in all our professional contacts with external stakeholders. In practice, this means we will identify our client in proactive external professional contacts and materials produced or distributed for a client.”
“We will only work for organisations that are prepared to uphold the values of transparency and honesty in the course of our work for them.”
It is not clear who is footing the undoubtedly substantial bill for such opportunities for Kuzmin to present the government’s position.
Ukraine’s Justice Ministry has just signed an agreement with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates for services in the case of Tymoshenko v. Ukraine. According to the explanation in the Public Procurement Herald, 10.2 million UAH has been allocated from public funding “in connection with the fact that the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Tymoshenko v. Ukraine on 31 May 2012 and 11 July 2012 posed additional questions.”
The Ministry explained the lack of a tender with many bidders as being because the same firm had already provided services for the government. There is however no record of that first contract in the Public Procurement Herald. Details of that government-commissioned report on the first trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko can be found here The assessment given that report’s objectivity and impartiality by western countries and structures varied markedly from the upbeat assertions on the Justice Ministry’s site.
There is no official information as to who is paying for Burson-Marsteller UK. The firm promises to “only work for organisations that are prepared to uphold the values of transparency and honesty in the course of our work for them”
The information is hardly unimportant given that the Prosecutor General’s Office is not an elected political body and should not be the mouthpiece for Ukraine’s leaders or its courts.
“We undertake never knowingly to spread false or misleading information and to take reasonable care to avoid doing so inadvertently. We also ask our clients to be honest with us and to never request that we compromise our principles or the law.”
At the round table, Kuzmin asserted that Ukraine’s authorities and he personally were working on implementing the promises which Ukraine has given European institutions on reforming national legislation and court proceedings.
He made much of the new Criminal Procedure Code, saying that had it been in place, Tymoshenko and Lutsenko would not have been in custody before the trial. He also claimed that abuse of official position, together with other crimes not linked with violence would not lead to terms of imprisonment.
He acknowledged “mistakes” in the Tymoshenko trial and said that reforms to legislation would eventually lead to some crimes for which officials have been imprisoned simply disappearing from the Criminal Code.
Asked by Radio Svoboda if that meant that Tymoshenko and Lutsenko would be released he said no, that since sentences had come into force, only a change in sentence, amnesty or pardon could free them. He asserted that the trials and sentences in the Tymoshenko and Lutsenko cases had overall complied with the procedural demands and laws current at the time.
He ignored the question about selective justice.
There is no information as to how the participants in this event were chosen, and nobody would even seem to have pinned him down on, for example, selective justice and insisted on an answer.
It was clearly not that kind of occasion. In fact it would be good to find out just what kind of occasion it was supposed to be and who the signatories to the contract for services were. Given Burson Marsteller’s promises and apparent values, it would seem appropriate for them to be upfront about what their “brand marketing and corporate reputation” services entail.