2 May 1965 |
Bohdanivka, Ukraine, Soviet Union
Dmytro Vasylovych Firtash (Ukrainian: Дмитро́ Васи́льович Фі́рташ) is a Ukrainian businessman, investor and philanthropist. He is head of the board of directors of Group DF, President of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine (FEU), Chairman of the National Tripartite Social and Economic Council (NTSEC), Co-Chairman of Domestic and Foreign Investors Advisory Council under the Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Sports of Ukraine, and a member of the Committee for Economic Reforms under the President of Ukraine.
Firtash is co-owner of RosUkrEnergo and controls much of Ukraine's titanium business. He gained control of previously state-owned titanium assets across Ukraine in 2004. He also owns several chemical plants. In May 2011, Firtash took over Nadra Bank (at the time Ukraine's 11th largest bank). Nadra Bank had gone into default in 2009 but it has since restructured its foreign debt with significant write-offs.
Firtash has become one of the leading investors in the power sector and chemical industry in Central and Eastern Europe. His plants and companies are present in Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Tajikistan, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria and Estonia. The international group of companies Group DF ('The Firtash group of companies') founded by Firtash in 2007 consolidates assets in the chemical industry, power sector and real estate.
In 2010, Firtash launched an effort towards consolidation of the Ukrainian nitrogen business. From September 2010 to September 2011, Firtash acquired ownership in 'Concern STIROL' (Horlivka), 'Severodonetsk Production Association Azot' and 'Cherkassy Azot'. In just over a year, the joint marketing strategy of the four fertilizers manufacturers owned by Firtash substantially strengthened its domestic market position. The businessman is also actively pursuing an agenda of titanium industries development.
Firtash started in business almost immediately after completing his military service. He founded his own trading company first in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, eventually moving to Moscow in the early 1990s.
In 2007, a private international group of companies, Group DF ("the Firtash group of companies") was formed to consolidate Dmitry Firtash's business assets in different sectors. Presently, Group DF incorporates assets in the chemical industry, energy sector and real estate, and this consolidation effort is still underway.
In 2010, Firtash launched an effort towards consolidation of the Ukrainian nitrogen business. From September 2010 to September 2011, Firtash acquired ownership in Concern STIROL (Gorlovka), Severodonetsk Production Association Azot and Cherkassy Azot. In just over a year, the joint marketing strategy of the four fertilizer manufacturers owned by Firtash substantially strengthened its domestic market position. He is also actively pursuing an agenda of titanium industry development.
Firtash bought 100 percent of InterInter Media Group Limited (back) from Valeriy Khoroshkovskyi on 1 February 2013, for his GDF Media Limited. In June 2007 Khoroshkovskyi had expanded his U.A. Inter Media Group Ltd with various other channels bought from Firtash.
In April 2014 Dmitry Firtash stated that despite the difficult conditions of doing business in Ukraine, as well as the political crisis, OSTCHEM enterprises, part of Dmitry Firtash's Group DF, continued to ramp up production. The investments directed to the development and modernization of OSTCHEM enterprises allowed significant increases in the production capacities of Rivne Azot, Stirol Concern, and Crimea soda plant in Q1 2014. From the beginning of the political crises in Ukraine, Firtash had a clear-cut position concerning Euromaydan. On 30 January 2014 he called for a peaceful and civilized conflict resolution.
Firtash has pursued an active public agenda. His important initiative has been the unification of employers' organizations of Ukraine into a single powerful association, the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, of which he has been President since November 2011. At the present, the FEU membership unites companies and enterprises collectively generating 70 percent of Ukraine's GDP.
Firtash is one of Ukraine's leading philanthropists, providing systemic support to education, science, theaters, and museums, as well as historical, cultural and humanitarian projects. Firtash's enterprises have promoted the social and economic development of municipalities where they are based.
In 2008, on Firtash's initiative and with his financial support, the University of Cambridge (UK) established a Cambridge Ukrainian Studies program aimed at promoting the study of Ukraine's rich cultural heritage in the United Kingdom and beyond. Another charity initiative by Firtash enabled the establishment of Cambridge-Ukraine Studentships, that make it possible for eligible students from Ukraine to seek a Master's degree at the University of Cambridge. The scholarships cover the cost of both tuition and accommodation for qualified students.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral at the Holy Ascension Monastery in the village of Bancheny of Chernivtsi region were constructed with funds raised by the Orthodox community and a sizable contribution from Firtash. Firtash's support was recognized by the Orthodox church: His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia awarded the philanthropist with the Order of Venerable Serafim Sarowsky, 2nd Degree.
In 2011 Firtash was elected as a President of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, a Ukrainian employers' organization representing their interests in the economic, social and labor relations with the government and trade unions at the national level.
In 2012 Firtash initiated the establishment of a venture investment fund aimed at supporting small enterprise by creating preconditions for realization of business ideas featuring a lucrative commercial potential. Bukovyna has become Ukraine's first investment fund offering preferential lending support to small businesses. It is the only fund financing the development of promising ideas 'from scratch' in all sectors of the economy.
In October 2013, Firtash was introduced into the state commission of cooperation with the World Trade Organization by the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. This is stated in the №540 decree of the President of Ukraine.
In spring 2002, Dmitry Firtash tried to go to the Parliament being member of the all-Ukrainian political association "Women for the Future", which was under the patronage of Lyudmila Kuchma, wife of the then President of Ukraine. However, the association "Women for the Future" won only 2.11% of votes and Mr. Firtash didn't get to Parliament. According to media reports, in 2010, Mr. Firtash was involved in financing of Viktor Yanukovych's presidential campaign. Mr.Firtash himself does not deny his support of Viktor Yanukovych. However, the businessman noted that though he sincerely believed that Yanukovych would draw out a lesson after 2003–2004 and will change the country in a positive sense, starting from 2011 they have been on different wavelength with the President of Ukraine, and have had different objectives and problems to be solved .
In 2011, Mr.Firtash said that Yushchenko had planned good reforms, but Tymoshenko didn't let him implement them.
Mr.Firtash expressed his attitude to the 2013–2014 political crisis in Ukraine and reacted to Euromaidan more than 2 months from the beginning of the revolution. On 30 January 2014 he called for resolving conflict in a peaceful, civilized way.
19 February 2014 Mr.Firtash openly addressed to the President of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, leaders of the parliamentary majority and the parliamentary opposition calling on the Ukrainian political forces to stop the violent confrontation in the country and immediately begin to address the crisis in the parliament.
In March 2014, Mr.Firtash addressed on behalf of the business circles of Ukraine to Aleksandr Shokhin, the Head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Enterpreneurs, and the entire business community concerning situation in the political arena and urged Russian businessmen to stop the war between Russia and Ukraine.
3 April 2014 in his address Dmitry Firtash announced  that, as a citizen of Ukraine he was awaiting presidential elections with great anticipation . According to the businessman, the elections would overcome chaos in Ukraine and strengthen the position of the country on the international political scene [ 74]:
«As a Ukrainian citizen, I look forward to our forthcoming Presidential election with great anticipation. I hope that my fellow Ukrainians will fully participate in the election and we will work together to build a stable and more prosperous country. I will not allow for my reputation to be ruined by those who are driven by political motivations and are not interested in Ukraine and its people".
On 11 April 2014, the President of the Federation of Employers urged big Ukrainian business to act according to the logic of "economic patriotism" and buy up goods in domestic companies .
On 30 April 2014, the Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash told the BBC that the unstable situation in the East of Ukraine was coordinated by Yulia Tymoshenko . According to the businessman, that she needed problems in the country in order to be able to enter a state of emergency, so Tymoshenko wanted to disrupt the presidential elections in Ukraine, because she had no chance for the victory . In addition, Mr.Firtash said that having one hundred deputies in parliament Tymoshenko had already practically usurped power in the country, because her party fellows Alexander Turchynov and Arseniy Yatsenyuk headed the current government.
Agency for the Modernization of Ukraine
Representatives of France, Germany and the UK have endorsed the proposal jointly moved forward by the Federation of Employers of Ukraine and trade unions of Ukraine to set up the Agency for the Modernization of Ukraine. In 200 days, the Agency will present a clear and comprehensive Ukraine modernization action plan. As a result of the Ukraine Tomorrow forum held in Vienna, the declaration speaking about the Agency foundation was signed by Mr. Reiner Lindner, Head of the German-Ukrainian Parliamentary Group; Mr. Karl-Georg Wellmann, a Bundestag Member; Mr. Bernard-Henry Lévy, French public activist, writer and philosopher; and Lord Risby, British MP. The modernization plan will be being drafted by eight renown European politicians and business people leading various facets of Ukraine's Euro-integration including health care, finance and taxation, economy, trade, constitutional and legal reform, anti-corruption and law enforcement.
The Forum's final declaration states that "the Program will include key provisions of critical significance for Ukraine's future: the constitutional, legal and state institutions reform, integration with the European Union, combatting corruption, financial sector and state government systems improvement, economy, trade and health care modernization. As reforms start to be implemented, the Ukrainian Restoration Fund will be set up to uphold the sustainable development of the economy and infrastructure.”
The Agency was established following 9 months of the FEU’s cooperation with Europe’s leading experts and business people. Last year, Vienna hosted two roundtables identifying major hurdles for instilling sustainable peace in Ukraine and for resuming its economic advancement. The declaration of the Ukraine Tomorrow forum highlights the role of preceding Vienna-based roundtables sponsored by the Federation of Employers of Ukraine: “Numerous proposals from the previous roundtables focused on the constitutional reform, decentralization, economic policy and foreign trade with the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union were eventually reflected in the Minsk negotiations. The Ukrainian civil society widely welcomed the Vienna process.
The FEU and trade unions of Ukraine proposed to set up the Agency for the Modernization of Ukraine in order to continue and institutionalize the reformation efforts of the Vienna roundtables participants,” notes the Ukraine Tomorrow’s final document. Mr. Dmitry Firtash, the FEU President, pointed out that in parallel to the Modernization Agency, the Ukraine reconstruction Fund would be established. “While the plan is being drawn up, we will be simultaneously pursuing discussions with investors giving due account to their interests and expectations. We are looking to raise some $300 bn. This is the estimated amount needed for the comprehensive quality reconstruction of the Ukrainian economy. What is important is that this money will be channeled into business and specific projects and we will be able to see their efficiency at once,” added Mr. Firtash.
The declaration signed by German, French and British representatives also states that Russia with its deep historic and cultural ties to Ukraine has always remained Europe’s most important neighbor. “For this reason, the Agency initiators wish to make their contribution into the normalization of relations with this country. The first Vienna's roundtable has declared that the situation in Ukraine and reforms in this country are in the EU's and Russia's common interest. Achieving Ukraine's sustainable and successful economic development, in turn, requires close cooperation with both economic zones – the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union," says the document. Karl-Georg Wellmann, a Bundestag member chairing the German-Ukrainian Parliamentary Group introduced the experts to draft the Ukraine modernization plan. The European integration work stream will be led by Gunther Verheugen, European Commissioner for the EU Enlargement in 1999–2004. The finance and taxation will be a responsibility of Peer Steinbrück, the architect of the Euro protection program during the 2008 economic crisis. The economic priorities will be under the guidance of Mme. Laurence Parisot, one of the most influential women in France and an ex-President of MEDEF (French Employers Association) in 2005–2013. Trade affairs will belong to the jurisdiction of Lord Mandelson who used to work with Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's governments later serving as the European Commissioner for Trade. Rupert Scholtz will head the constitutional reform work stream and anti-corruption activities will be elaborated under the guidance of Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz serving as the Prime Minister of Poland in 1996–1997 and after that, in his capacity of the Foreign Minister of Poland (2001–2005), he signed the Agreement on Polish accession to the EU. The law enforcement-related proposals will be supervised by Lord McDonald who served as the Prosecutor General of England and Wales in 2003 – 2008. Health care proposals will be devised under the leadership of Bernard Couchner – ex-Foreign Minister of France and founder of the international organization "Doctors Without Borders".
Firtash is a member of the Guild of Cambridge Benefactors, set up in 1998 to recognize the generosity of major benefactors over £1 million to the University and Cambridge Colleges. At a Guild of Cambridge Benefactors' event held on 19 March 2014 to honor the University's most prestigious donors, his wife Lada Firtash was in attendance. A group which calls itself Positive Investment Cambridge (PIC) handed out leaflets and daffodils to donors attending the event that called for the University to "spring clean" its donations.
Firtash has been active in initiating and developing programs aimed at promoting Ukraine at the international arena.
In 2008, on Firtash's initiative and with his financial support, the University of Cambridge (UK) established a Cambridge Ukrainian Studies aimed at promoting the study of Ukraine's rich cultural heritage in the United Kingdom and beyond.
As part of this program, Cambridge's students from across the globe attend an academic course of Ukrainian Studies that includes the Ukrainian language, literature, cinematography, culture and history. Prominent international researchers of Ukraine are invited to lecture and host workshops on topical issues pertinent to both Ukraine's history and preset. The University of Cambridge also holds literary readings, art exhibitions and the Annual Cambridge Ukrainian Film Festival. Over the history of its existence, the Cambridge Ukrainian Studies Program has truly become Ukraine's informal humanitarian mission in the United Kingdom.
Another charity initiative by Firtash enabled the establishment of the Cambridge-Ukraine Studentships that made it possible for eligible students from Ukraine to seek a Master's degree at the University of Cambridge. The scholarships cover the cost of both tuition and accommodation for qualified students.
Firtash has been supporting a series of other massive educational projects. An example of such philanthropic support is his financing of construction of the Ukrainian Catholic University campus in the city of Lviv.
The entrepreneur is actively involved in projects aiming at the international promotion of Ukrainian culture. His donation made it possible to organize and hold the second International Poetry Festival Meridian Czernowitz.
A series of benchmarking events in Ukraine's cultural life – films screening and festivities on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Ukrainian actor Bohdan Stupka – became a well-known success largely due to Firtash's benefaction.
Among other Firtash's charity work is assistance to Ukrainian professional theaters. The celebration of the 75th anniversary of Kherson Regional Musical and Drama Theater largely owes its success to the philanthropist's endowment. In addition to that, his sponsorship support enabled a major restoration of material and technical resources of Chernivtsi Regional Musical and Drama Theater which became a generous gift on occasion of the theater's 80th anniversary.
In 2012 The University of Cambridge is delighted to announce that Dmitry Firtash has been nominated to receive the Chancellor's 800th Anniversary Campaign Medal for Outstanding Philanthropy, which will be presented at an exclusive ceremony in Cambridge in October 2012 by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz.
In May 2014, when interviewed by Inter TV channel, Dmitry Firtash, Head of the Board of Group DF, stated that Ukraine must be strong, neutral and independent. He also pointed out that the top priority faced by Ukraine is to legitimize the government, which can only become a possibility after running the elections.
Firtash is a controversial figure in Ukraine. According to documents uncovered during the United States diplomatic cables leak in 2010, Firtash told U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor of needing permission from alleged Russian crime boss Semyon Mogilevich to do business in Ukraine during the lawless 1990s. The same documents suggest that Firtash also claimed to be friends with President Viktor Yushchenko. Firtash denied the remarks. Allegedly, Gazprom, a Russian natural-gas extraction company, had asked Mogilevich to oversee natural-gas deliveries from Russia to Ukraine via gas intermediary RosUkrEnergo. All parties deny connections with Mogilevich. Other cables said Firtash and Mogilevich were linked through ostensible offshore company vehicles either by joint ownership through former spouses or through Firtash heading companies in which Mogilevich's former spouse was the shareholder. It was also suspected that Raiffeisen Zentralbank, an Austrian-based bank, was a front to legitimize RosUkrEnergo.
On 16 June 2009, Yulia Tymoshenko accused fellow candidates in the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election, Viktor Yushchenko, Arseniy Yatseniuk and Viktor Yanukovych of having the same campaign headquarters financed by Firtash. On 26 April 2011 Tymoshenko sued Firtash and RosUkrEnergo in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan accusing them of "defrauding Ukraine's citizenry by manipulating an arbitration court ruling, "undermining the rule of law in Ukraine" in connection with the 2010 international arbitration court ruling in Stockholm that ordered Ukraine's state energy company Naftogaz to pay RosUkrEnergo 11 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural-gas to compensate for fuel it had "expropriated" plus 1.1 billion bcm as a penalty.
Certain analysts and Ukrainian politicians believe that Firtash is a secret force behind the sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko in 2011 either as revenge or because of his "lucrative relations" with Russia he is deliberately hindering Ukraine's European Union integration. Firtash was accused in a New York court of "masterminding" Tymoshenko's imprisonment; the case was dismissed in March 2013.
On 23 July 2013 brothers Ilya and Vadim Segal, the New York-based owners of Dancroft Holdings, brought charges in New York County Supreme Court against Firtash and Nadra Bank, Ukraine's eighth-largest bank. The suit accuses Firtash, the banks owner, of seizing their assets via "sham lawsuits" over debt, and of using his connections with President Viktor Yanukovich to guarantee the outcomes in court cases. The suit stated that the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Valeriy Khoroshkovskyi, is a business partner of Firtash, together with head of the presidential administration Serhiy Lyovochkin, and former Ukrainian energy minister, (at the time of the complaint) Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boiko. According to the complaint, the SBU, in bringing charges against the Segals, was simply acting on behalf of Firtash.
On 19 February 2014 Firtash made a public statement addressing to the President of Ukraine, Cabinet of Ministers, leaders of parliamentary majority and parliamentary opposition and called Ukrainian political forces for stopping power struggle in the state and immediately starting political crises resolution in the Parliament.
In March 2014 Dmitry Firtash on behalf of the business circles of Ukraine addressed to the Head of the Russian Union of Industrials and Entrepreneurs Aleksandr Shokhin and the entire business community of Russia concerning situation on the political arena and called Russian businessmen for stopping the war between Russia and Ukraine.
The request of American law
On 13 March 2014, Austrian authorities arrested Firtash on bribery and other charges at the request of American law enforcement agencies. But on 30 April 2015 announcing the decision of the court the judge Christoph Bauer named "at least partially politically motivated accusations" made by US justice as one of the reasons for the extradition refusal. It was found that during more than a year that passed since his arrest in Vienna the US justice system has not provided sufficient evidence to Austrian court that Firtash paid bribes in India, in particular the US has not passed the witnesses interview protocols.
Firtash was released from custody in Vienna after being ordered to pay the bail of €125m (£105m, $172m), the largest in Austrian legal history. He says in the video, "thankfully, I have the utmost confidence in the Austrian judicial system and will use all legal means to prove my innocence".
However, he was more scathing with the US authorities, who he claims are landing him with allegations that are "completely absurd and unfounded". He is one of the biggest investors in Ukraine, employing more than 100,000 workers in the country, and is a major international benefactor who has donated $230 million in the past three years, including charitable projects in the US, UK and Ukraine.
30 April 2015, after the thirteen hours of the court session, the Regional Court of Vienna in criminal cases rejected the US request for the extradition of Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash. "America obviously saw Firtash as somebody who was threatening their economic interests," Judge Bauer said, explaining his decision from the bench. But he also said the United States had not provided coherent evidence of a crime either: “There just wasn’t sufficient proof”. "For me it is obvious: Firtash is a very influential person in politics, titanium and gas businesses. The gas is also a politics", said Bauer. Politics was not the only reason for Dmitry Firtash’s extradition refusal. It was found that during more than a year that passed since his arrest in Vienna the US justice system has not provided sufficient evidence to Austrian court that Firtash paid bribes in India, in particular the US has not passed the witnesses interview protocols.
The New York Times commented on the decision as amounting to a "scathing rebuke of the Justice and State Departments", reflecting the diminished credibility of the United States authorities, even in the eyes of a European ally. During the process Judge Bauer said "that he did not doubt the veracity of two witnesses cited by American prosecutors in their filings, "but whether these witnesses even existed," because the Justice Department had repeatedly refused to provide requested information or respond to questions".
Dmitry Firtash says that indictment issued by the USA against him is absurd and baseless. This was stated in the businessman's video address. Firtash stresses that he and the whole Ukraine have turned out to be in the center of geopolitical battle between the USA and Russia. And he considers all accusations against him as politically motivated. He also said that being a Ukrainian citizen he was waiting for the presidential elections and hoped to build stable and prosperous state together with fellow citizens. "I will not allow my reputation being spoiled by the enemies with political motivations that have nothing in common with interests of Ukraine and its citizens", – said Dmitry Firtash.
Staying in Austria Dmitry Firtash gave an interview to his own Inter TV channel in which he called Ukrainian business for uniting, supporting the state and helping it to overcome the economic crises. He also promised to provide funds to Ukrainian army. In April, OSTCHEM enterprises, part of Dmitry Firtash's group of companies, started supporting military forces of Ukraine.
Chairman of the Group DF Supervisory Council Dmitry Firtash stated that the criminal case opened against him in the United States had been totally concocted. He said this during the interview to the Inter TV channel.
Firtash also said that he had sustained great losses, "but someone will pay dearly, it won't go unnoticed."
- About Group DF
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- The Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Sports of Ukraine
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- Ukrainian Oligarch Dmytro Firtash: I'm Caught in the Middle of Russia and US Battleground Dmytro Firtash: I am sure that all of these false allegations will be dismissed. Ibtimes.co.uk. 4 April 2014.
- Judge Rebuffs U.S. in Rejecting Extradition of Ukraine Billionaire, NYT by DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, APRIL 30, 2015
- Заявление Председателя Совета Группы компаний Group DF Дмитрия Фирташа. Youtube.com. 3 April 2014.
- Фірташ: я опинився в епіцентрі протистояння США і Росії. Radiosvoboda.org. 4 April 2014.
- Фірташ обіцяє довести свою невинність. Youtube
- "Я опинився в епіцентрі протистояння США і Росії", – Фірташ. Molbuk.ua. Retrieved on 30 May 2014.
- Дмитрий Фирташ: Украинское общество должно объединиться. Facenews.ua. 24 March 2014.
- Фирташ обещает денег украинской армии и предлагает всем объединиться. ru.tsn.ua. 24 March 2014 (Russian)