strongmanAngus Roxburgh, a former BBC reporter who worked the Russia account at Ketchum unit Gplus, told the Daily Beast that his former firm is "utterly powerless" to affect the Kremlin's PR amid the Ukraine crisis.

"This is way, way, way above even their inflated pay grade," he said.

Ketchum's response to the invasion has been to say it does not advise the country on foreign policy. The PR firm is stressing that it handles economic development PR and facilitates media relations with the West.

Ketchum and Brussels-based Gplus are owned by Omnicom.

Roxburgh called that a "stock answer," but suggested there is more to the firm's role. "The contract is supposedly aimed at making Russia more attractive as an investment destination, but of course that means helping them disguise all the issues that make it unattractive: human rights, invasions of neighboring countries, etc.," he said.

Roxburgh penned "The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia," in 2011.

Read Eli Lake's full report at the Daily Beast