The Men From RUE (RosUkrEnergo)

WASHINGTON, DC -- Forget the geopolitical arguments, the Russian threats to sell China gas and oil and condemn the poor Europeans to a new ice age. The real story in the Russian-Ukrainian gas business about is money and avarice.

Investigative Journalist Roman Kupchinsky

Take the recent revelations in the Russian press about the hidden beneficiaries of RosUkrEnergo (RUE), the mysterious gas trading company forced upon Ukraine by the Kremlin during the January gas negotiations. The entire episode seems to have an unrealistic air about it.

The simple fact is that there is no such journalist as "Vladimir Berezhnoi," the author of the article in the Gazprom-owned newspaper "Izvestia" which first exposed Ukrainian nationals Dmytro "Dima" Firtash and Ivan Fursin on April 26 as the hidden culprits.

The Izvestia article, according to the "Moscow Times" was commissioned by a high level Gazprom manager who not only insisted that the US Department of justice be attacked for involving itself in matters which, in his view, did not concern them, but also demanded that an anti-Yushchenko spin be put on the story.

The entire episode seem contrived and part of a sloppy scenario prepared by incompetent former KGB operatives.

According to highly reliable sources, Firtash, the owner of 40 percent of RUE, had been coached a few weeks before the appearance of the Izvestia article on what to say and when to say it. He was instructed by Gazprom managers and their comrades, former KGB officers in the Kremlin, who knew about Dima's role a long time before the creation of RUE.

It would have been absurd and unthinkable for Putin and his closest collaborators to allow Gazprom to enter into a multi-billion dollar venture such as RUE without knowing who all the players were. Anyone who believes their hogwash should be sent to work in some inclement part of Russia to get their heads straight.

Firtash appeared in the horrendously expensive Knightsbridge section of Londongrad, the name most Russian businessman call the place, right on cue and dressed for his role. Anyone who wishes can compare the photo's of Firtash posted on the Ukrayinkska Pravda website where he has a scraggly goatee and is dressed in a greenish zoot-suit, favored this Spring by Kyiv hoods, and the photo of the new, clean-shaven Firtash on the front page of the Financial Times, dressed to kill in a pin stripe suit from Saville Row and a haircut which must have cost at least 150 quid.

"Dima" Firtash did not avoid the ultra-sensitive topic of his relationship to Semen Mogilevich during his interview with the Wall Street Journal and was most likely instructed not to deny knowing the dreary overweight Russian-Ukrainian-Jewish gentleman.

"Yes, we met a few times, and yes, his wife was a principle in one of my companies, Highrock Holdings, but when I realized who she was (gasp!) I bought out her share." There you have it. Dima was as transparent as a jellyfish in an oil spill.

Still, something was not right. Why did Firtash and Semen share the same lawyer in Tel Aviv? Why did that particular lawyer play a key role in the establishment of Eural Trans Gas, the predecessor of RUE. Was Igor Fisherman also a part of the Highrock empire of companies?

Why all the elaborate malarkey by Dima explaining that all he wanted was to help Gazprom get into the middleman business of selling Turkmen gas to Ukraine. One could imagine that without Firtash, Gazprom would be unable to do its job.

Above all Firtash failed to explain why Vladimir Putin, Alexei Miller (the CEO of Gazprom) Yuriy Boyko (the former head of Naftohaz Ukraine), and Leonid Kuchma allowed him to and his buddy Ivan Fursin (who, in turn, seems to be a buddy of Volodymyr Lytvyn, the man who is innocent of everything, and who almost became a member of parliament on Lytvyn's ticket) to become part owners of RosUkrEnergo?

Why did Gazprom accept them as their partners in RUE? All the explanations put forth by Gazprom till now stink.

Why did Gazprom decide to expose Firtash and Fursin now? It seems abundantly clear that Gazprom was aware that the US Department of Justice already knew who the two characters were and decided to pre-empt the Americans. They did so in order to try and limit the investigation. "See, now we all know who the bad guys are, so let's get back to the business of defrauding the citizens of Ukraine and Russia."

Until the RUE scam is uncovered to everyone's satisfaction, the US Department of Justice investigation should continue full steam ahead and follow the money trail from Firtash's and Fursin's accounts in Austria, which, by the way is a haven for Russian money launderers, to the off-shore accounts belonging to the men who are the real beneficiaries of RUE's millions. If this means exposing some of the most powerful men in Russia and Ukraine then so be it.

If it means throwing Raiffeisen Bank out of Ukraine as punishment for its sleazy dealings - fine. Let them go complain to Putin and his pal Gerhard Schroeder.

It is time to begin telling the truth about who rules Russia and to ask why almost every deal in the oil and gas business in Russia is run like a KGB covert operation. The Yukos affair was a glaring example. Then the same men in the Kremlin who produced the Yukos sitcom set up a phony company - BaikalFinance - in an abandoned warehouse God knows where, and used it to buy out Yukos' main production unit.

Next were the photo's in the New York Times of the run-down shack where one of the managers of RUE claimed to live outside of Moscow. We cannot forget the three unemployed Romanian's who overnight became the principles of a major gas trading company - Eural Trans Gas and the former Hungarian state secretary for Culture who, in the twilight of his life discovered that he really wanted to be a gas trader when he grew up.

The Russian energy business stinks like a brothel at high tide and if the Russian government is too corrupt or inept to clean it up, then the US Department of Justice, Interpol and others should expose it over and over for what it really is - a feeding trough for the Russian elite.

Source: Roman Kupchinsky


chris hutchins, London said…
I am writing a biography of President Putin and would appreciate clarifiation of this story for my book from anyone who can offer it or any other information on like matters.
Chris Hutchins, London
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