Leading law firm in crisis talks to protect staff in Ukraine and Russia

One of the world’s biggest law firms is scrambling to protect its staff in Ukraine and Russia amid growing fears of war in Europe.

Senior Baker McKenzie executives met Thursday night to discuss the current situation in the region and how to respond amid fears of an imminent Russian invasion, according to a source familiar with the talks.

It came as Italian lender Unicredit pulled out of a possible takeover of Otkritie, a Russian bank, and city sources raised concerns that sanctions against Moscow risked having unforeseen consequences for international finance.

Baker McKenzie employs over 100 people in three offices in Kyiv, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

A spokesperson said the law firm’s priority is to ensure its employees in these offices are ‘safe and healthy’, but the Telegraph understands there are currently no plans to withdraw country staff.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to rise, while the West has stressed that “all options are on the table” in terms of imposing sanctions on Russia.

On Wednesday, the US Embassy in Kyiv urged US citizens in Ukraine to leave the country.

Banking sources said the government had launched talks with major international lenders to understand the impact of the sanctions on Russia.

It is understood the government wants to ensure there are no ripple effects for UK businesses. Sources said officials had asked about the impact of applying sanctions on complex financial securities, but an industry insider warned that there are risks involved in taking action affecting finance.

They said: “What will be difficult is when the government starts to get into financial products that they don’t understand. Some of the financial instruments have a long acquisition period – maybe thirty years.

“If those get caught in some kind of punishment, you might have to start untying them.

“Deselecting those would be very complex and there could be unintended consequences and that’s what they’re trying to figure out.”

This follows reports that the UK and EU are preparing to sanction new Russian gas projects if Russia attacks Ukraine.

The plans are backed by the United States and aim to strike a balance between harming a key industry without disrupting current gas flows, the Financial Times reported.

Europe receives around 40% of its gas from Russia. Britain receives little gas directly from the country, but imports from Europe, and prices in Britain closely follow those on the continent.

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