Group DF International and Hyundai Engineering in Vienna: New Industrial Park in Ukraine

PeopleOther ♦ Published: April 15, 2024; 23:14 ♦ (Vindobona)

In an ambitious move to aid Ukraine's post-war reconstruction, Group DF International, led by controversial Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, and Hyundai Engineering Co. Ltd., have embarked on a major venture to establish a chemical industrial park in the city of Rivne, situated in Western Ukraine. This pivotal agreement was officially sealed in Vienna, setting the stage for what is poised to be one of the most substantial investment initiatives in the region.

Handshake at the signing of a cooperation agreement with Dmytro Firtash (Chairman, Group DF International, l.) and Hyeon-Sung Hong (CEO, Hyundai Engineering Co, r.). / Picture: © GDF/OA

The project, which is aimed at sustainable chemical production, includes the construction of plants for the production of nitrogen fertilizers as well as hydrogen and ammonia based on renewable energy sources. This represents a significant step towards the ecological modernization of Ukrainian industry.

Dmytro Firtash, founder and chairman of Austria-based Group DF International, and Hyeon-Sung Hong, CEO of Hyundai Engineering, led the ceremony. Firtash emphasized the strategic importance of the project for the Ukrainian economy and its position in Europe: "This project will not only revitalize our chemical industry but also contribute to Ukraine's economic recovery."

Hyundai Engineering is contributing its extensive experience in industrial plant construction to the project. Hong explained: "After rebuilding our economy in Korea, we know how crucial infrastructure construction is for economic development. We are ready to contribute our knowledge and experience to help Ukraine at this critical stage."

The planning of the chemical park will start in May 2024 with a Ukrainian-Korean working group that will develop a detailed roadmap. This roadmap will take into account not only the technical aspects but also the economic and environmental impact of the project.

Controversial background

This project underlines the potential of international cooperation in industrial construction, but it is not without controversy. Dmytro Firtash is a controversial figure, mainly because of his links to litigation and political disputes. A major issue surrounding Firtash is the allegations and investigations into corruption and other criminal activities that overshadow his business activities.

Firtash has been accused of corruption and involvement in organized criminal activities in several countries, including the US and Austria. The US judiciary accuses him of having paid millions in bribes to secure business in India. Firtash has been facing legal challenges in Austria since 2014 after the US requested his extradition on the above-mentioned corruption charges. Although Austrian courts initially ruled against the extradition, the case has been reviewed several times and continues to be the subject of legal battles.

Firtash is also viewed critically due to his political connections in Ukraine, particularly to various political parties and figures who held power during the politically turbulent times in Ukraine. These connections raise questions about his influence and motives. As a key figure in the Ukrainian economy, particularly in the chemical and energy sectors, Firtash controls significant industrial assets. His economic power gives him considerable influence, which is both admired and criticized in Ukrainian politics and business.

Ukraine Against Firtash

The legal and political challenges around Dmytro Firtash make him a polarizing figure and influence his business ventures, including his international partnerships and investments. Ukrainian authorities are intensifying their legal actions against exiled oligarch Dmytro Firtash, as the Financial Times reported. This measure included expanding a corruption investigation to include three more managers of his energy companies. This expansion brings the total number of managers charged to fifteen, alongside the seizure of significant assets and property worth millions of pounds linked to Firtash and his associates.

The allegations against Firtash's operations involve embezzlement and misuse of resources from Ukraine's state gas transportation system, leading to substantial financial losses estimated at £380 million. These activities purportedly took place between 2016 and 2022 and have drawn significant scrutiny from Ukrainian law enforcement.

Firtash, who resides in Austria and is resisting extradition to the U.S. for other corruption charges, has maintained his innocence through statements from his company, Group DF. The company labels the charges as unjust pressures and calls for adherence to legal standards and fairness.

The broader political context in Ukraine involves efforts by the Ukrainian government, encouraged by Western allies, to diminish the power of oligarchs and tackle endemic corruption. These measures are seen as critical for the country's governance and its alignment with European values.

Firtash's historical ties include partnerships with Gazprom and support for Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's ousted pro-Russian president, positioning him at the nexus of significant political and economic interests in Ukraine. His current legal challenges and the sanctions imposed on him in Ukraine illustrate the ongoing struggle between the state and powerful economic figures.

The situation is part of a larger initiative by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to implement a "de-oligarchisation" law aimed at reducing the influence of oligarchs, which remains partially unfulfilled. This ongoing crackdown on oligarchs reflects a significant transformation in Ukrainian politics and business, where once-powerful figures are now seen more as ordinary businessmen contending with the protection of their assets amidst the country's changing landscape.

Group DF

Hyundai Engineering