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Ukraines Gas Traders Revealed

Published: April 28, 2006 (Issue # 1165)


MOSCOW Gazproms 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 Austrias Raiffeisen Bank for beneficiaries who had refused to be named.

Centragas confirmed Izvestias 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 RosUkrEnergos 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 RosUkrEnergos 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 peoples 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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