Zelenskiy Appoints U.S. Lawyer As Adviser Amid Outreach To Ukrainian Diaspora

KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has appointed a U.S.-born lawyer of Ukrainian descent as an adviser with a mandate to build relations with ethnic Ukrainians living in the United States.

Andrew Mac

Zelenskiy named Andrew Mac, who heads the law office of Asters in Washington, as an adviser on November 5, according to a brief statement on the president's website.

Mac gave more details about his role in two November 14 foreign-agent registration filings with the U.S. Justice Department.

"The registrant participates in conferences and other engagements in his personal capacity that promote ties between Ukraine and the Ukrainian-American community and American investment in Ukraine which may indirectly benefit the president of Ukraine," one filing says.

Mac's tenure is for an indefinite period and he will not be paid for his services, the filing said.

Mac's appointment comes as Ukraine's reputation in the United States has taken a hit amid a Democratic-led impeachment hearing into whether President Donald Trump withheld military aid to the country in order to pressure its government to conduct investigations into a potential rival for the 2020 presidential election.

Republicans have sought to defend Trump in part by casting Ukraine as one of the world's most corrupt countries.

Mac's role will "likely involve" speaking with Ukrainian-American media or media outlets read by the Ukrainian-American community, according to the filing with the Justice Department.

Neither Mac nor spokespeople for Zelenskiy returned RFE/RL's calls for comment.

"Fighting the perception that Ukraine is corrupt is probably going to be part of his portfolio," said Andrij Dobriansky, director of communications for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. 

There are more than 1 million Americans that identify as Ukrainian, he said.

However, Mac's main role will more likely focus on promoting Ukraine as a place to do business, Dobriansky said.

"President Zelenskiy's goal is to grow the economy, as he has very concrete budgetary concerns," he said.

Ukraine, among the poorest countries in Europe, is negotiating a new loan package from the International Monetary Fund.

Low living standards have driven many Ukrainian citizens to seek work abroad, in countries such as neighboring Poland.

Zelenskiy, who won the presidency in a landslide in April on a promise to fight corruption and accelerate economic growth, met with the leaders of the Ukrainian World Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress during a visit to Toronto in July.

Mac specializes in cross-border transactions involving the United States, Ukraine, and other former Soviet states, according to a biography on Asters' website.

Asters has been representing Ukraine's largest lender, PrivatBank, in lawsuits brought by its former co-owner, billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy.

The bank was nationalized in 2016 when international auditors found a $5.5 billion hole in its balance sheet.

According to a 2010 interview with the Kyiv Post, Mac said he was recruited to Kyiv in 2002 by PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm and decided to stay longer after being "inspired" by the 2004 revolution that brought a pro-Western government led by Viktor Yushchenko to power.

Mac eventually in 2009 was made managing partner at Magisters, a major law firm founded in Kyiv.

After leading Russian law firm Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners (EPAM) acquired Magisters in July 2011,

Mac established an independent firm in Washington associated with the practice. 

EPAM was co-founded by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's classmates from his law-school days in St. Petersburg, Bloomberg reported.

Mac, born in New York City and raised in the Philadelphia area, is a member of the Ukrainian diaspora, according to the Kyiv Post.

Source: Radio Free Europe