War in Ukraine | Controversial oligarch comes to the aid of civilians in Sieverodonetsk

(Vienna) He owes his fortune to Russian gas, but since invading Ukraine, Dmytro Firtach has embraced his country’s cause, mobilizing its powerful resources and opening up his factory in Sievierodonetsk to hundreds of civilians.

Posted at 9:45am

Anne BEADE
Media Agency France

The 57-year-old oligarch, who faces extradition to the United States on suspicion of embezzlement, is fighting from his office in Vienna, where he lives under strict judicial supervision.

In a press release published this week, he protested against a “completely useless” war, an “intolerable humanitarian tragedy”.

A former close friend of pro-Russian ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Mr Firtach now claims he has “never” been an ally of the Kremlin.

“But you must understand that I am a businessman. My goal is to make money,” he argued in a recent interview with NBC.

Inquiries from AFP have so far gone unanswered.

gas tycoon

In Ukraine, there is little mention of the help of the oligarch sanctioned by Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s presidency in June 2021 for selling titanium products to Russian military companies.

Ukrainian tycoon Dmytro Firtach built his fortune importing Russian and Central Asian gas into Ukraine linked to giant Gazprom.

Born on May 2, 1965 in the Ternopil region (West) to a father who was a driver and mother to an accountant, he helped his parents grow tomatoes from an early age to make ends meet, according to a biography published on his company’s website .

Graduate in hand, he entered the business in 1988 and diversified his activities, which he merged into the Group DF holding company in 2004.

It is present in the energy, chemical, media, banking and real estate sectors in Ukraine and other countries in Europe and Asia and employs around 100,000 people.

refuge

Upon hearing the news of the Russian offensive, the powerful boss, one of Ukraine’s richest men, provided vehicles and other logistical means to deliver humanitarian aid.

He also turned his television channel Inter, which was considered pro-Russian before the war, into an instrument at the service of the Ukrainian authorities.

A popular “marathon” of continuous information is now broadcast on the air, reflecting the official position in coordination with other channels.

But most notably, Dmytro Firtach has stirred the conversation with his American lawyer Lanny Davis’s announcement on Tuesday that 800 civilians, including 200 employees, have taken refuge in the basements of the Azot chemical plant owned by his group.


Photo Gleb Garanich, REUTERS

Azot Chemical Plant in Sievierodonetsk

The building is located in the besieged city of Sievierodonetsk, a strategic city in Moscow’s desire to conquer the entire Donbass Basin in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin “will not emerge victorious. Whatever happens, Russia will lose,” Mr Firtach said.

In the sights of the United States

This father of three with a white beard and impeccable suit asked prosecutors for permission to return to Ukraine to take part in the war effort. A request that was denied, CNN reported in May.

Would he see a way out of his golden Viennese prison in the conflict?

Since 2014, Dmytro Firtach has not been allowed to leave Austria, where he was arrested at the request of the FBI, the American Federal Police. He was released on a record bail of 125 million euros.

The United States wants to try him for corruption in connection with the exploitation of a titanium mine in India. He himself denies the allegations.


Photo HERBERT NEUBAUER, archive Agence France-Presse

Dmytro Firtash during a hearing at the Austrian Supreme Court in Vienna in June 2019

Austria’s Supreme Court gave the green light for his extradition in 2019, but his lawyers have since appealed.

While awaiting the outcome of this legal battle, Dmytro Firtach munches in Vienna, far from the conflict that is ravaging his country.

However, he is happy to see Ukraine united as never before. “We can thank Vladimir Putin for that,” he joked on NBC: “In 30 years he is the only politician who managed to unite this ‘unique nation’.

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