Bloomberg Law
March 8, 2022, 3:47 PMUpdated: March 8, 2022, 10:43 PM

Cleary, Debevoise Eye Russia Exit Over Ukraine Invasion (1)

Meghan Tribe
Meghan Tribe

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is cutting ties with the Russian government and shuttering its Moscow office as law firms feel mounting pressure stemming from the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

The Wall Street firm said in a statement that it has been exiting its engagements with Russian governmental and state-owned entities. It will also continue to comply with U.S., E.U. and U.K. sanctions law in all its current and future representations, the firm said.

The sanctions, imposed shortly after Russian military forces began the assault on neighboring Ukraine, have law firms and others questioning whether they should continue to work with state-owned clients in Russia. Several law firms have already cut ties, while others have said they are reviewing the situation.

Cleary also noted that it is temporarily closing its operations at its Moscow office, pending further developments.

The firm is currently representing the Russian government in a long-running bond dispute with Ukraine over a defaulted $3 billion bond. The case is awaiting a ruling in the U.K. Supreme Court.

“We have all watched the events unfolding in Ukraine with shock and dismay, and our thoughts and support are with everyone who has been affected by this tragedy,” the statement said.

Debevoise & Plimpton said in a Tuesday statement that the firm has decided to terminate several Russian client relationships and will not take on any new clients in Moscow. The firm is also conducting a review of the status of its Moscow office, keeping in mind the safety and security of its colleagues in the city, it said.

“We have watched with alarm the rapidly unfolding tragedy in Ukraine,” the firm said in a statement. “The images and stories coming out of Ukraine are heart-wrenching, and although we are all inspired by the courage of the Ukrainian people, more than anything we long for peace.”

Sidley Austin and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer walked away from Russian bank VTB following the invasion. Norton Rose & Fulbright closed its Moscow office and said it plans to drop Russian clients. Baker McKenzie and White & Case said that they are reviewing its client representations to comply with the sanctions. Baker Botts, which has represented the bank in courts in the U.S., has not publicly said whether it will end that work.

Beyond severing ties, Cleary’s lawyers and staff will be providing pro bono legal support to Ukrainian refugees, particularly as it relates to immigration and asylum status, the statement said.

Podcast: War in Ukraine and Life-or-Death Choices for Big Law

—With assistance from Jeremy Hodges

(Updated with statement from Debevoise in paragraphs 7 and 8)

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at