It was the afternoon of Dec. 4 when Giuliani flew to the Ukrainian capital from Hungary with low-cost commercial carrier WizzAir. He was there to film a three-part video series for the staunchly pro-Trump OAN channel, which framed the trip as a mission to “destroy” the Democrats’ impeachment narrative.
Flying WizzAir, which demands that customers pay for everything à la carte and forces them to fight for unassigned seats and overhead bin space, often feels like a particularly chaotic Black Friday at Best Buy.
After experiencing that, it’s no wonder Giuliani wanted to fly out of Kyiv on a private jet.
According to flight data, videos, and photographs analyzed by BuzzFeed News, and confirmed by a Giuliani associate who joined him, the former mayor of New York left on a flight from Kyiv to Vienna on the night of Dec. 6, aboard a Beechcraft Premier 1A light business aircraft with tail number T7-UTS.
That number ties the jet to ICS Aero, a company that’s registered in the tiny state of San Marino, famous for its corrupt business practices, but operates out of Kyiv. Ukrainian media have reported that the company’s owner is Alexander Rovt, a Ukrainian American. The logo of another Rovt company, IBE Trade Corp, which adorns the tails of the company’s jets, provides further evidence of Rovt’s ownership.
Rovt has done business in the past with Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch with ties to organized crime and the Kremlin who is currently under house arrest in Vienna and is fighting extradition to the US, where he faces federal bribery charges. While those charges are unrelated to the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, Firtash has been at the nexus of Trump and Giuliani’s effort to undermine their enemies.
On Tuesday, prosecutors said in court that a lawyer for Firtash paid $1 million to one of Giuliani’s Ukraine campaign cohorts, Lev Parnas, and Parnas’s wife. In an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday, the Firtash lawyer, Ralph Isenegger, said he loaned the Parnases the money to purchase a home in Florida.
Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, have been charged with funneling illegal contributions to a member of Congress, whose help they sought during their back-channel Ukraine campaign to remove former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Kyiv.
Giuliani’s use of the private jet raises questions about how he is funding his back-channel Ukraine campaign to dig up dirt on Trump’s political rivals. And it is likely to come under scrutiny from congressional Democrats who back Trump’s impeachment and federal prosecutors in Manhattan who are reportedly investigating whether Giuliani broke lobbying laws in conducting his back-channel Ukraine campaign, including his efforts to undermine Yovanovitch, who was recalled in April.
Neither Giuliani nor his spokesperson responded to BuzzFeed News’ requests for comments. Rovt didn’t respond to an emailed request, nor did the communications offices of ICS Aero and OAN.
Rovt, a towering New York real estate investor with Ukrainian roots, made his billions in producing and trading fertilizer. In 2011, he sold his overseas fertilizer assets to Firtash in a deal that involved a Russian chemical conglomerate, according to Bloomberg.
But Rovt appears to have retained close ties to powerful elites in Ukraine. In 2016, then-president Petro Poroshenko awarded him the Order of Yaroslav the Wise for distinguished services to the state and the people of Ukraine, according to a decree published on the presidential website.
Rovt, a pro-Trumper, reportedly tried to donate $10,000 to the president’s campaign on Election Day but had all but the legal $2,700 maximum returned. He’s also connected to a $3.5 million mortgage loan to former Trump campaign chair and convicted financial fraudster Paul Manafort, through a real estate investment firm founded by a former Trump business partner.
Joining Giuliani was his spokesperson Allen, OAN host Chanel Rion, an OAN camera operator, and a former Ukrainian diplomat by the name of Andriy Telizhenko whom Trumpworld has held up as a “whistleblower” of its own.
In Kyiv, the group met with several controversial Ukrainian political figures, including former prosecutors general Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko, both of whom have peddled disinformation to Giuliani for months. Giuliani’s visit sent Kyiv into a frenzy, with Zelensky’s office working hard to avoid and ignore the former New York mayor and journalists running around trying to find him.
Shortly after the visit, OAN released video footage of Giuliani’s trip. BuzzFeed News was able to identify the jet he flew out on by matching the one in the OAN video and a tweet from Allen when the group was on board with publicly available photographs that showed similar stripes, logos, and interior. Telizhenko then confirmed the plane information by phone from Kyiv.
Asked how the plane was booked for the group, Telizhenko said: “We had a company that we use book the flight and that’s it. The guy you’re talking about [Rovt], I didn’t even know who owned the plane. We got it through a third company. I heard about that guy before and he has a lot of planes all over Europe, so that’s why it’s convenient."
Telizhenko said that Vienna was the chosen destination because its airport offered more flight options to Washington than the alternative offered by the charter company, Warsaw.
“It wasn’t Vienna because it was Vienna,” Telizhenko said when asked if the destination had anything to do with possibly meeting Firtash in the Austrian capital. “It was a transfer. The next morning [Giuliani] flew out [to the US]. I can guarantee you that no meetings of that kind [with Firtash] happened.”
“Plus it’s not expensive because it was a group of people with bags and everything else," he added. "It was the same price to use a charter as to buy tickets for everybody [on a commercial flight only a few hours in advance].”
The Beechcraft appears to have been booked through VipSky, a Kyiv-based charter company. Its website lists the Beechcraft Premier 1A as costing $3,300 per hour.
While it’s not clear who paid for the flight, Telizhenko said he believed that “Mr. Giuliani paid for [the flight] himself.”
“If OAN reimbursed him or not, I don’t know. But I know he paid for himself and that’s it,” he added.
The jet departed from Kyiv at about 12 a.m. local time and landed in Vienna at 12:56 a.m. local time, according to publicly available flight trackers. That would mean the flight lasted around two hours, for a cost of at least $6,600.
This appears to be the second time Giuliani has used a jet owned by Rovt’s ICS Aero. Giuliani flew on another one adorned with the IBE Trade logo from London to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in 2017, flight data and photographs published by the city of Kharkiv show. Giuliani visited Kharkiv to consult with the city on security issues, according to a press release at the time.
Flying the luxurious private skies is indicative of the way Ukraine’s elite travel to and from Western Europe. ICS Aero planes adorned with Rovt’s IBE Trade logo have been used by several prominent Ukrainian figures, including former president Poroshenko, his scandal-plagued business partner, and a former Ukrainian lawmaker who once boasted about having his own private militia to assassinate an unarmed pro-Russian separatist.