Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash was arrested in Vienna on Wednesday evening, March 12. This information has been confirmed by German broadcaster “Deutsche Welle,” citing sources at the Federal Criminal Police Office of Austria.
Police sources also said the question of Firtash’s extradition to the US would be resolved soon. Austria has no criminal cases against the businessman. Firtash’s arrest was based on a warrant issued by a US court at the request of the FBI.
“In the evening on March 12, at about 20:00, members of the department for combating organized crime arrested Ukrainian citizen Dmytro Firtash, aged 48,” says the official statement from the Austrian police. Firtash is suspected of bribery and organized crime.
Among oligarchs, Firtash was one of those closest to the Yanukovych regime. In particular, he participated in the gas schemes between the Putin and Yanukovych regimes, even receiving a “discount.” As co-owner of the intermediary firm “RosUkrEnerho,” Firtash was involved in gas supplies during both the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko and the premiership of Yulia Tymoshenko.
Currently Firtash is owner of the TV channel “Inter,” which at the start of the Euromaidan protests was broadcasting distorted information on events with a decidedly pro-government stance. When protesters began to die, he shifted to a more balanced strategy.
Firtash was not included in recent lists of oligarchs subject to account freezes in the EU. According to “Correspondent,” he ranks 8th in the rankings of richest Ukrainians.
In the UK, Firtash formed an organization called “DF Foundation,” which later changed its name to “Firtash Foundation.” This organization was incorporated in Leeds. It is officially managed by Firtash’s Russian wife Lada Firtash.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed Firtash’s detention, said Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis, as reported by Ukrainska Pravda, March 13.
“According to our embassy in Vienna, we can say that he was indeed arrested at the request of the FBI. Firtash is currently in a penitentiary in Vienna,” Pereybyynis said. He added that “the embassy is looking into the matter and will try to hold a meeting with (Firtash).”
When asked when such a meeting would take place, Pereybyynis said it would depend on permission from the Austrian side.