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Dmytro Firtash Is Innocent – and He Can Help Improve Ukraine – U.S. Relations

Column of the Lanny J. Davis, attorney representing Mr. Dmytro Firtash (RealClearDefense.com, September 3, 2021).

United States President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky are meeting today, September 1, at the White House.  The two share much in common – especially a commitment to democracy and better national relations.

Presidents Biden and Zelensky also share a record of standing up to bullying and lies by former President Donald Trump.  And both leaders stand firmly against corruption, support the due process of law, and believe in the presumption of innocence. 

AP Photo/Ronald Zak

That is why I am hoping both presidents will review and consider the facts and truth about Dmytro Firtash and not the widespread innuendo and false reporting about Mr. Firtash throughout U.S., European, and Ukrainian media in the last eight plus years.  If they do, they will find Mr. Firtash is a supporter of their anti-corruption, pro-democracy agenda and supports good relations between our two countries.  See Mr. Firtash’s May 21, 2014 op-ed [1] published in the Kyiv Post calling for an “independent and strong” Ukraine for more on this subject. 

Below are some of the most egregious and false “myths” spread throughout the media – as if by sheer repetition lies can be made true – followed by my factual contradictions of those false reports.  

Let me start with the one that is false – and may understandably have given President Biden, whom I strongly admire and support, a negative (but misguided) impression of Mr. Firtash.

Myth:  Firtash was involved with efforts by Rudy Giuliani (and former President Trump) to dig up dirt on President Biden and his son.

Nevertheless, U.S. mainstream and European media continue to repeat the guilt-by-association, utterly false innuendo that Mr. Firtash worked with Giuliani and former President Trump to dirty up President Biden and his son.  I have repeatedly called reporters asking them to retract and correct this falsehood but have only had mixed success.

Myth:  Firtash has been charged by U.S. prosecutors for the bribery of an Indian official to obtain a mining license. 

 

MYTH:  The U.S. arrest and extradition request of Mr. Firtash involved no evidence of political motivation.

Note, perhaps ironically, that it has been the U.S. who insists under its extradition treaties on a finding of no “political motivation” before it will allow extradition of a foreign country citizen to that country.

 

MYTH:  Political lobbying and “corruption” has delayed that extradition of Firtash to the U.S.

 

Myth:  Firtash has had business connections to Russian organized crime and a particular individual allegedly associated with the mob.   

A primary source of this lie came from the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko.  She was a competitor of Mr. Firtash in the natural gas business.  Recently, she was soundly defeated by President Zelensky in Ukraine’s 2019 election.  

In 2013, Tymoshenko hired U.S. public relations and law firms and spent substantial sums to widely publicize her RICO/racketeering case she filed in NYC federal court against Mr. Firtash and others.  She received widespread media attention in return for her sizable investment.  Included in her complaint were multiple allegations that Mr. Firtash was a mobster and involved with the Russian mob, which was then reported uncritically repeatedly by mainstream media.  Those allegations were then and remain utterly false.

In September 2015, a respected NYC U.S. District Court Judge not only threw out Tymoshenko’s bogus complaints for the fourth time.  She also wrote a written opinion concluding that Tymoshenko should be barred from ever filing the case again.  See her written opinion, here [6].

Not surprisingly, in contrast to the media’s widespread reporting of Tymoshenko’s false charges about Mr. Firtash’s mob connections, the dismissal of Tymoshenko’s case with prejudice for the fourth time was barely reported by the same media that publicized her false and reckless charges. 

Two other sources of this false charge of Mr. Firtash’s business association with Russian organized crime can be traced.

First, there was a leaked cable sent by a U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in 2010, based on notes taken after a personal meeting with Mr. Firtash.  At that meeting, Mr. Firtash spoke in his only language, Russian, and the American notetaker relied on an English translator.  Mr. Firtash has consistently and publicly denied the assertion that during that meeting he said he needed the “approval” of an alleged Russian mobster to complete a gas deal and insists it was a translation error.

Second, there was the unsupported allegation made by the U.S. government in court that Mr. Firtash was associated with Russian organized crime.  That is not true.  It is unfair that the government made such a claim (which it did not allege in its indictment) and the media headlines it generated demonstrate this unfairness.

 

Myth:  Certain officials in President Zelensky’s government recently announced – without revealing any facts or evidence – sanctions against Mr. Firtash for allegedly selling titanium to “Russian military enterprises.”  

Moreover, these Ukrainian officials failed to disclose that a Ukraine government-owned company was then and now selling titanium raw materials to a Russian company that is the largest titanium producer in the world.  This fact was also virtually ignored by the same media all over the Internet that publicized the Ukrainian government’s utterly bogus sanctions of Mr. Firtash – still in place without a shred of evidence or due process. See my op-ed in the Kyiv Post [7], which deals with these false allegations in detail.

In sum, my message to President Zelensky and President Biden:  Once the facts are examined and Mr. Firtash is vindicated as an innocent man, the positions he has publicly taken in support of democracy, independence, and close U.S.-Ukraine relations should be helpful to you both. 

The pejorative term “oligarch,” implying wealth achieved with corruption, is applied to Mr. Firtash across the media and is just another example of innuendo without facts.  The frequent use of the term ignores Mr. Firtash’s early history after the break-up of the Soviet Union when he and his family were impoverished, and he learned to survive through bartering goods in return for milk and food. 

Moreover, as stated above, Mr. Firtash achieved his substantial business success over the years without ever being convicted of any corruption charge, in private business or government.

In 2015, Mr. Firtash’s stand against corruption in Ukraine was demonstrated when he helped create and fund a broad-based anti-corruption NGO called the “Agency for the Modernization of Ukraine” [8] or “AMU.”  The AMU’s leaders include the former prime minister of Poland, the founder of Doctors Without Borders and former French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the former Director of Public Prosecutions of England and Wales.

Yes, Mr. Firtash’s vindication in the U.S. courts will take time. 

But facts and truth should count in the court of public opinion.  All Mr. Firtash – and his legal team here in the U.S. and in Austria – ask is that the media and the U.S. public (and, we hope, Presidents Biden and Zelensky as well) take the time to review the facts for themselves.  We hope all will resist the temptation to be influenced by repeated myths and false innuendo, no matter how many times they are repeated via Google, as surrogates for the truth.

The dystopian era of Donald Trump’s lies and “alternative facts” should be over.

Mr. Davis is an attorney representing Mr. Dmytro Firtash.  He is founding partner in the Washington D.C. law firm, Davis Goldberg Galper.  He served as Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton in 1996-98 and as a member of President George H. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2006-07.  He has been a columnist for The Hill newspaper and online and a media commentator and political analyst for the last two decades.