A Vienna, Austria, court has ruled that Victoria Nuland (right), the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, attempted to pressure the President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich (left), into accepting Ukrainian association with the European Union (EU) by threatening Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash with arrest, extradition to the US, and imprisonment on allegations of bribery several years ago in India.
The details were exposed for the first time in public in a proceeding in the Landesgerichtsstrasse Regional Court on April 30. Austrian judge Christoph Bauer was presiding on the application by the US Government for the extradition of Firtash. The transcript of the proceeding has not yet been issued publicly, nor the official text of the judge’s ruling from the bench.
Judge Bauer rejected extradition, ruling there had been improper political interference by the US Government in the Firtash case. This is a violation, according to Bauer’s judgement, of Article 4, section 3 of the US-Austria Extradition Treaty of 1998. “Extradition shall not be granted,” the proviso declares, “if the executive authority of the Requested State determines that the request was politically motivated.” Read the treaty in full here.
A New York Times reporter, David Herszenhorn (below, left), tweeted during the proceedings against Firtash (right, centre), and then published a report of what was translated for him from the German.
The newspaper version: “Mr. Firtash’s lawyers asserted that an initial request by the United States for his arrest, on Oct. 30, 2013, was directly tied to a trip to Ukraine by an assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, in which she sought to prevent Mr. Yanukovych from backing out of a promise to sign sweeping political and trade agreements with Europe. Ms. Nuland left Washington on the day the arrest request was submitted to Austria. The request was rescinded four days later, said a lawyer, Christian Hausmaninger, after Ms. Nuland came to believe she had received assurances from Mr. Yanukovych that he would sign the accords. From that point, nothing happened in the Indian bribery case, Mr. Hausmaninger [defence lawyer for Firtash] said, until Feb. 26 — four days after Mr. Yanukovych was ousted after months of street protests. The arrest request was renewed then, and the Austrian authorities detained Mr. Firtash two weeks later, the same day the new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, was visiting President Obama at the White House.”