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Ukraine’s Gas Traders Revealed

Published: April 28, 2006 (Issue # 1165)


MOSCOW — Gazprom’s Izvestia newspaper announced with a flourish Wednesday that two Ukrainian businessmen, Dmytro Firtash and Ivan Fursin, were the beneficiaries behind the mysterious other half of RosUkrEnergo.

Citing what it said were excerpts of a PricewaterhouseCoopers audit of the secretive gas trader, the newspaper named the men in a front-page article written in a sarcastic, anti-American tone that attempted to link them to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

The audit named Firtash and Fursin as the owners of Centragas, a company that owns the 50 percent of RosUkrEnergo not owned by Gazprom. Centragas is held by Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank for beneficiaries who had refused to be named.

Centragas confirmed Izvestia’s report in a statement late Wednesday, saying Firtash owned a 90 percent stake in Centragas, and Fursin a 10 percent stake.

Firtash is director of the Cyprus-based investment company Highrock Holdings, as well as board chairman of Estonian fertilizer factory Nitrofert, according to anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness. Fursin owns an Odessa bank and a movie theater, and is also president of a branch of Highrock Holdings, according to Izvestia.

Izvestia said Highrock was owned by Semyon Mogilevich, a Ukrainian-born businessman wanted by the FBI and reputed to be a major figure in organized crime.

The revelation came after Gazprom had for months redirected inquiries about RosUkrEnergo’s ownership to Ukrainian officials.

Yet the article appeared to raise far more questions than it answered — in particular, about the timing and motives behind its publication.

Written under the name “Vladimir Berezhnoi,” the article attacked the U.S. Justice Department, which was reported last week to be investigating RosUkrEnergo’s then-unknown beneficiaries.

“The internal problems of their own country, evidently, have long since been resolved (the only thing left is to execute the terrorist Moussaoui), and thus they have the time and desire to meddle in other people’s affairs,” the Izvestia article said.

Several staff members at Izvestia contacted by telephone Wednesday identified Berezhnoi as a freelance writer.

But a source at Izvestia said on condition of anonymity that Berezhnoi did not exist, and that the article had been written by an Izvestia staff member under a pseudonym after a Gazprom representative showed him the PwC audit.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Observe the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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