Crimea and Punishment
One of Cambridge Uni’s most prominent donors, Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, has been arrested in Austria.
This week, Ukrainian energy tycoon Dmitry Firtash, who previously donated a whopping £5.4 million to the University, was arrested following a request by the American security services.
According to Austrian authorities, he was detained following allegations of bribery and other criminal activities.
The Cambridge Trust, a charity which enjoys the patronage of the Prince of Wales, describes Firtash as “a prominent Ukrainian businessman who has made generous donations to the University”.
In 2008, Firtash gave the Uni £5.4 million towards the development of the Ukrainian studies centre. In 2010, a further donation led to the establishment of two key academic posts – a Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies and a Lector in Ukrainian Language.
Firtash is also the man behind the creation of the Cambridge-Ukraine Studentships programme, allowing Ukrainian students to pursue a Masters at Cambridge.
Ben Dalton, a fourth year linguist at Fitzwilliam, was positive about Firtash’s impact on the University: “I greatly admire Mr Firtash’s commitment to Ukrainian studies at Cambridge, having myself found the course of huge importance and interest.”
Firtash has strong connections to the recently ousted Ukrainian President, Yanukovych, and is a key figure on the natural gas market in Russia.
The arrest comes amid the turmoil which has swept across Ukraine. It also follows an announcement by some European countries, including Austria, that they are looking to freeze any assets tied to Yanukoyych. Despite this, Firtash’s company, Group DF, referred to his detainment as a “misunderstanding” with no links to the current crisis in Ukraine.
Speaking to The Tab, third year Ukrainian student, Oleg Naumenko, gave his opinion on the arrest: “We still don’t know all details which led to his persecution but this is the first time that an oligarch of such magnitude has been arrested since the arrest of former PM Pavlo Lazarenko (who served his term in American prison).
“Given that Firtash is closely involved in gas deals with Russia, his arrest might show how the Americans are able to gather more information to implement sanctions against Russia.”
Closer to home, some believe that Firtash’s arrest demonstrates the dangers of Cambridge’s lack of an explicit ethical investment or donations policy.
In a press release, Positive Investment Cambridge said, “The arrest of a Cambridge donor reveals the lack of any explicit guidelines on ethics and responsibility that govern how the University’s invests its endowment and receives donations.”
CUSU Investment Officer, Jonas Knapp, added, “Cambridge seems reluctant to reform its investments and donations practice, preferring instead to obscure them.”
When contacted by The Tab, a spokesman for the University responded, “We are aware of the situation. It would be inappropriate to comment further until this matter is resolved.
“The benefaction from the DF Foundation is used solely for educational purposes and the Foundation has no influence over its allocation.”