Ukraine hires lobby firm ahead of Trump inauguration

Ukraine hires lobby firm ahead of Trump inauguration
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The Ukrainian government has hired the lobbying firm BGR Group as it seeks to strengthen its relationship with the United States under President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump Right way and wrong way Five things to know about the elephant trophies controversy MORE.

The predominantly Republican lobbying and PR firm — run by GOP operatives including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Lanny Griffith and Ed Rogers — inked the contract with Ukraine on Dec. 23, according to forms recently filed with the Justice Department.

Lobbyists will “support and help open lines of communication” between key Ukrainian officials and U.S. government officials, journalists, non-profit groups and others.

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BGR Group is the Ukrainian government’s only K Street firm that it has on retainer. The one-year contract with the firm is worth a total of $600,000, or $50,000 per month, disclosures say. 

The hire comes at a time of high tensions between Russia and Ukraine, following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

While the Obama administration has condemned Russia's incursions into Ukraine, U.S. policy could shift once Trump takes office.  

Trump is seen as more sympathetic to Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, and has said the U.S. should "get along" with Russia to fight Islamic terrorists.

BGR Group will be working for Ukraine to “design and implement a comprehensive government affairs and business development strategy to support the ... goals of strengthening US-Ukrainian relations and increasing US business investment in Ukraine.”

The firm does not comment on client matters, but it is bringing noticeable firepower to its representation of the Eastern European country.

On the contract are powerbrokers Barbour and Rogers, in addition to Lester Munson, the vice president of the firm’s international practice, and Maya Seiden, a senior State Department aide during the tenure of former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Pelosi blasts California Republicans for supporting tax bill MORE.  

Prior to joining BGR Group in November 2015, Munson served as the staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Tenn.). 

The Senate panel has been active in passing legislation related to Ukraine and Russia —including measures imposing sanctions on Russia for annexing the Crimea following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych.

APCO Worldwide was hired in 2015 to help with media relations for then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, but the contract was terminated when a new prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, was appointed last April.  

The embassy did not return a request for comment on the new contract.