The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) has secured the services of renowned lawyer and lobbyist William Burke-White to advance its interests in the United States.

It was revealed on Thursday, Nov. 9, by Ukrainian lawmaker Maryan Zablotsky, who acquired the US Justice Dept. documents confirming the agreement from open source outlets.

According to the agreement, the primary objective is influencing American authorities to deter Ukraine from proceeding with its proposed ban on the Russia-backed UOC-MP.

According to the revealed papers, Burke-White entered an agreement with the UOC-MP on October 16, 2023, due to concerns about a potential ban by the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament.

This stems from draft law No. 8371, targeting religious organizations affiliated with Russia, which the Verkhovna Rada supported on Oct. 19 in its first reading.

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Burke-White will try to persuade the US government to press Ukraine to reconsider the UOC-MP ban. The agreement outlines the lobbyist’s commitment to advocate for the Church through media, public engagements, and with US officials and Congress members, leveraging US influence to discourage the ban.

Who hired Burke-White?

Zablotsky pointed out that Vadim Novinsky is allegedly the one who hired Burke-White. A former Ukrainian parliamentarian known for his pro-Russian stance and a protodeacon of the UOC-MP, Novinsky currently finds himself subject to Ukraine’s sanctions. Radio Liberty reports that he is currently living in Zurich, Switzerland.

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How much does the lobbyist charge?

Burke-White charges $1,400 per hour for his services. So far, according to the revealed papers, the UOC-MP has already paid him $7,000 for five hours of work.

This payment was made to the London-based international law firm Amsterdam & Partners, where Burke-White is employed and which has been representing the interests of the Novinsky, claiming that he is unreasonably persecuted due to his religious beliefs.

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Officially, the firm claims to support the UOC-MP’s interests nationally and internationally as a charitable endeavor, providing its services for free.

Details about Amsterdam & Partners’ collaboration with the church surfaced on Oct. 16, the same day the UOC-MP signed the contract with Burke-White.

Who is William Burke-White, and what’s his background?

William Burke-White, 49, is a prominent international lawyer, law professor, and deputy dean at the University of Pennsylvania, who also serves as a senior advisor at Amsterdam & Partners.

Fluent in Russian, he holds a background in Russian and American history and literature from Harvard University. He studied briefly at Moscow State University in the 1990s and was a visiting researcher at the Moscow State University of International Relations.

But even despite such close ties with Russia, Burke-White has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine, backing the Maidan protests in 2013. He has also expressed concern about the annexation of Crimea in a 2014 article, predicting repercussions for the post-World War II order.

On March 4, 2022, he condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in his article for The Hill, asserting that Putin violated international law and would face consequences. In April 2023, he delivered a lecture at Karazin Kharkiv University on potential legal measures for holding Putin accountable.

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What steps has he already undertaken in the framework of an agreement with UOC-MP?

On Oct. 19, Burke-White authored an article titled “If Ukraine is truly committed to human rights, it must uphold its freedom of religion.”

In the piece, the lobbyist condemns the ban as a curtailment of believers’ rights and asserts that the UOC-MP is now completely separated from the Russian Orthodox Church and not influenced by it.

In the Church’s interest, Burke-White has also reached out to the White House, the Department of State’s Office of Religious Freedom, Democratic Senator John Ossoff’s Office, and other American institutions.

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