Secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks say the controversial co-owner of gas intermediary RosUksEnergo is closely acquainted with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.
Dmytro Firtash, the controversial co-owner of gas intermediary RosUkrEnergo, said he is closely acquainted with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and was his adviser during gas crises with Russia, according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv published on the WikiLeaks website on Dec.1.
The connection, which Yushchenko has always denied, was mentioned by Firtash in a conversation between then-U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine William Taylor and energy tycoon Firtash on Dec. 8, 2008, a meeting that took place at Firtash’s initiative. Yushchenko’s press secretary Iryna Vannykova could not be reached for comment.
In a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with the ambassador, the Ukrainian oligarch acknowledged his connection with Yushchenko, describing himself as a “close friend and confidante” of the former Ukrainian president, who served one five-year term before being soundly defeated in his re-election bid in January. Firtash claimed to have “loyally served” as an unofficial adviser to Yushchenko during tense gas negotiations with Russia and political crises dating to the 2004 Orange Revolution.
In the course of the conversation, the controversial gas trader said he had met with Yushchenko at his dacha three times during the week preceding the meeting with the ambassador. The meeting came less than one month before Ukraine was consumed by a gas crisis when Russia cut off supplies.
According to Taylor’s cable, Firtash also described his success in thwarting plans to form a coalition between Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and the party of then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his nemesis, who removed RosUkrEnergo from the Russia-Ukraine gas trade in January 2009 following Tymoshenko’s brokering of a deal with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Firtash told Taylor he was trying to talk Yushchenko into striking a coalition deal between his Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense faction and Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, describing such a step as “the only way to unify Ukraine during the current political and economic crises.” That, he added, should prevent Ukraine’s divisiveness which Moscow is trying to cultivate and take advantage of.
During his presidency Yushchenko always denied any involvement in Firtash’s business and RosUkrEnergo’s selection as a gas intermediary between Russia and Ukraine in 2006.
Kyiv Post staff writer Yuriy Onyshkiv can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org