Spain issues arrest warrant for Ukraine oligarch

Spanish police have announced an international arrest warrant against a powerful Ukrainian oligarch, identified by media Friday as controversial gas magnate Dmytro Firtash.

Spain issues arrest warrant for Ukraine oligarch
Dmytro Firtash makes a rare public appearance at his Austria extradition trial. Photo: Samuel Kubani/AFP
Judicial authorities in Barcelona ordered “three European arrest warrants issued against Ukrainian citizens considered the leaders” of a criminal organisation involved in money laundering, police said in a statement late Thursday.
“Among them was a major businessman in the gas sector in Ukraine,” the statement said. Approached by AFP, a police spokeswoman refused to identify the oligarch.
But Spanish media named him as Firtash, one of Ukraine's richest men, who made a fortune importing gas to Ukraine from Russia and Central Asia via his group Rosukrenergo in collaboration with Russian gas giant Gazprom.
ABC said Firtash was accused of “close links with organised crime and having laundered 10 million euros ($10.6 million) in Spain that came from suspected criminal activities”.
Firtash was arrested in 2014 in Austria before being released on bail set at 125 million euros. Austrian authorities refused a request for his extradition in April last year to the United States, where he was accused of corruption and membership of a criminal organisation.
He was suspected of bribing civil servants in India in 2006 in order to secure titanium mining licences. Spanish police, announcing the arrest warrant, also said five suspected members of the same network had been arrested Thursday in Barcelona and in the southern resort of Marbella.
A police spokeswoman told AFP they were all Spanish nationals, describing them as “second-tier collaborators” in the enterprise — three lawyers and two bank employees who allegedly facilitated the money laundering.
In an initial operation against the network in July, 12 people were arrested including Stepan Chernovetsky, son of colourful former Kiev mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, who founded major bank Pravex.
Police said the network had laundered illicit gains from companies based mainly in Cyprus and the Virgin Islands.
“The capital had been invested in the hotel business and in real estate worth 10 million euros,” the statement said.


Spain backtracks and will send weapons to ‘Ukraine resistance’

Spain will supply "offensive military hardware" to Ukraine following Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament on Wednesday, only two days after he'd ruled out that Spain would send weapons to Ukraine separately from the EU.

Spain backtracks and will send weapons to 'Ukraine resistance'

“I want to announce to you that Spain will also deliver offensive military hardware to the Ukrainian resistance,” Sánchez said.

Until now, Spain’s Prime Minister stressed he would send military support only as part of a wider package unveiled by the European Union on Sunday, in which Brussels agreed to unblock €450 million ($500 million) for member states to buy arms for Ukraine.

Before Sánchez’s announcement, Spain was left as the only large EU country that was not going to send weapons to Ukrainian forces individually in the form of a bilateral agreement.

Members of governing coalition party Unidas Podemos have criticised that the EU is contributing weaponry to the conflict, which may explain why Sánchez was dragging his feet on the matter.

But the Spanish government has finally backtracked and will send “offensive military hardware” to the Ukrainian resistance.

In an interview on Wednesday with Antena3 television, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said that “in this first shipment that will go aboard two planes, we expect to send 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds, and light machine guns”. 

The only EU nations that won’t send weapons directly to Ukraine are currently Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Malta and Cyprus.

Sánchez said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine “is a brutal attempt to stop the construction of a European space based on values radically opposed to the authoritarianism he represents”.

The announcement comes a day after Spain said it would send 150 additional troops to Latvia as part of a wider Nato build-up in the Baltic region.

READ MORE: Spain to take in Ukrainian refugees and send troops to Latvia

The country already has 350 troops in the alliance’s enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Latvia.

The United States, Canada and more than a dozen European countries have so far responded to Ukrainian appeals for military equipment.