Law firms with offices in Ukraine were on high alert today as tensions on the Russian border escalated. It was reported overnight that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered troops into two rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent states.

The UK Foreign Office advises that British nationals in Ukraine should leave while commercial options remain. Air France yesterday became the latest airline to scrap Ukraine flights as a precautionary measure following the growing tensions.

There are understood to be relatively few UK lawyers or firms based in the affected regions, but several firms have offices in the capital Kyiv. CMS Cameron McKenna has 40 domestic and internationally qualified lawyers in its Kyiv office, while Baker McKenzie and Dentons also operate from the country.

Participants hold placards during the Turn ON sanctions! demonstration to call for action against Russian aggression outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine

Participants hold placards during a demonstration to call for action against Russian aggression outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kyiv

Source: Ukrinform/Shutterstock

A spokesperson for Dentons said today: ‘We hope for a peaceful resolution to the present crisis situation involving Russia and Ukraine, and our immediate concern is to support our people in this difficult time.

‘Dentons has contingency plans in place to stay in contact with our people and ensure business continuity in case of escalation. At this point, our Kyiv office remains open and fully operational. We are monitoring the situation carefully and have measures in place to ensure we can provide our colleagues in Kiev with any assistance they need.’

In a statement, Baker McKenzie said the firm was proceeding with an 'abundance of caution' given the rapidly-changing picture.

The firm added: 'In light of the ongoing situation between Ukraine and Russia, we are closely monitoring developments at all times and are doing everything possible to support our people during these challenging and uncertain circumstances. Their safety and wellbeing is our number one priority and this principle guides everything that we are doing.'

In a statement published last week, the Ukrainian Bar Association said the disputed territories were ‘integral parts’ of Ukraine and any other interpretation was condemned by the professional legal community.

The statement added: ‘We believe it is necessary to strengthen the sanctions package against Russia and to review the possibility of imposing personal sanctions in the event of recognition by the President of the RF of the occupied territories.

‘The UBA also supports the initiative of the parliament of Ukraine to raise a question of Russia being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

‘UBA stands ready to provide legal assistance and legal advice in the context of relevant proceedings in international courts.’