The new leader of CMS’s Ukraine office has told the Gazette that lawyers are determined to play their part in helping to rebuild the war-stricken nation.

Vitaliy Radchenko was forced to evacuate Kyiv with his wife and child when Russia invaded in February and has now found accommodation west of Lviv.

From there he has continued to lead CMS’s energy and projects practice in Ukraine, and the firm has now announced his appointment as managing partner of the Kyiv office. He succeeds Graham Conlon, who is moving on after five years as Kyiv managing partner.

Speaking to the Gazette, Radchenko said the firm was able to operate fairly normally with staff working remotely and is now keen to support efforts to help Ukraine emerge stronger.

‘It is of course a challenge but also an honour to be able to lead the team here in Kyiv in Ukraine and other places,’ he said. ‘Everybody needs reassurance and to have a leader. Everybody is looking to be told that everything is going to be OK and well. We are one of the few teams to keep people on board – all our team members and lawyers are with us. Some other firms had to make tough decisions when the work stopped – we are lucky because of our international profile and long-term projects that make the firm sustainable.’

Vitaliy Radchenko

Radchenko: 'Covid tested our ability to work online and remotely'

Radchenko and around 60 colleagues have continued to work throughout the conflict, with some staying in Kyiv and others moving to safer locations in the west of the country. Most men aged 18 to 60 continue to be prevented from leaving Ukraine, and Radchenko said it felt important to keep the economy going.

CMS aims to play a central role in the rebuilding project, and Radchenko said that staff in the country have been able to adapt relatively quickly to their new environment and working conditions.

‘Covid tested our ability to work online and remotely so on the back of that in a way this is easy compared to the initial shocks of IT issues and people being exhausted [during lockdown],’ he added.

‘These days courts in the Ukrainian territories work online. The companies registers and property registers have started working again. It is amazing to see how resilient we are – one of the government’s aims was that most administrative services are still available online and on an app – things like that really helped us to be mobile and agile.

‘Everyone was doubting that Ukraine would make it this far. Now we are talking about the implications of Ukraine winning. In a matter of weeks they have completely changed their views and we see that even from where we stand.’

CMS says it is committed to its Ukraine business and has confidence in the country’s future success, with opportunities likely to follow once hostilities have come to an end. For now, the priority is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff still in Kyiv and the rest of the country.

Dóra Petrányi, regional managing director, added: ‘The first challenge is about the physical safety of the team. Naturally once you make sure this is covered the second challenge is to provide mental health support as everybody was involved in some way and needed to feel as secure as possible. We need to make sure they are busy as they want to be and also support our clients in their challenges.’


This article is now closed for comment.