A Canadian energy company mounting an international legal fight against a Ukrainian oligarch has hired a Democratic government affairs firm that got entangled in last year’s impeachment saga.
Calgary-based TIU Canada Ukraine Holdco Ltd. hired Blue Star Strategies effective Dec. 1 to lobby on “sustainable energy investments in Ukraine.” CEO Karen Tramontano, a former deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, and COO Sally Painter, a former Clinton adviser, are registered to lobby for the company.
Neither Blue Star nor TIU responded to requests for comment about the reason for Blue Star’s hiring. But the contract comes as TIU is suing a ferroalloy plant owned by billionaire oligarch Igor Kolomoisky over accusations that the plant is trying to shake down TIU by disconnecting one of its solar power plants from the electricity grid.
“This is a clear case of oligarchs pressuring a foreign investor and trying to steal assets,” TIU Canada CEO Michael Yurkovich said in a Nov. 19 press release announcing the lawsuit. “We are mustering our resources and will fight this case in Ukraine, Canada, or any jurisdiction needed to win. Corruption must not be allowed to continue in Ukraine, and the rights of investors must be protected.”
TIU is a renewable energy company that says it was the first to invest in Ukraine under the Canadian-Ukrainian Free Trade Agreement that came into effect in 2017. The company commissioned a 10.5 megawatt solar station in Nikopol in January 2018, earning plaudits from President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has ties to Kolomoisky and rose to fame as a comedian on a television station owned by the oligarch.
“We think about the future, that is why green energy will be one of the key sectors of our economy during the upcoming years,” Zelensky said during an appearance before the Economic Club of Canada in July 2019. “I know that we have here [the] Canadian company TIU that already successfully works in this area. We are grateful to them for this — please, follow their example.”
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The promising partnership soured last March, however, when TIU alleges that Kolomoisky’s Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant illegally disconnected the plant from the grid. The plant says it did so to make repairs. The Kyiv Commercial Court ended preliminary hearings last month and the case is expected to move to full consideration on Jan. 13.
Blue Star has a history with Ukraine.
In 2015 the firm assisted the Glover Park Group in efforts to secure expanded US assistance for Ukraine amid its war with Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country. Painter lobbied the State Department for “US funding for Ukraine humanitarian aid” that fall, according to lobbying filings.
And in 2017 Blue Star was hired to increase the profile within the US government of the National Interest of Ukraine, described in lobbying filings as an non-governmental organization “promoting rule of law and civil rights.”
The firm’s best known work however is as a consultant for Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company whose board President-elect Joe Biden‘s son Hunter Biden sat on. Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted in May to subpoena the firm following the release of emails indicating that Tramontano mentioned Hunter Biden’s name during a meeting with a State Department official on Burisma’s behalf in 2016.
President Donald Trump‘s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Burisma’s ties to the Bidens led the House of Representatives to impeach him last year. Kolomoisky also made an appearance during the impeachment, with reports that associates for Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, met with him in Tel Aviv in April 2019 to help secure a meeting with Zelensky, a rising star who assumed office the following month.
Last summer, the US Department of Justice accused Kolomoisky of stealing billions of dollars from a bank he once owned and using his businesses to launder the the money in the United States and around the world. He denies the accusations.