Saturday 23 September 2017

Ukraine's richest man wants 'terror' to end

Employees of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works sit during a rally to protest against actions of armed separatists, in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine. Factories sounded their sirens in two cities of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday and steel workers held a peace rally in support of a call by Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, for protests against armed separatists who plan to disrupt a May 25 presidential election. Reuters
Employees of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works sit during a rally to protest against actions of armed separatists, in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine. Factories sounded their sirens in two cities of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday and steel workers held a peace rally in support of a call by Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, for protests against armed separatists who plan to disrupt a May 25 presidential election. Reuters

Roland Oliphant

Ukraine's richest man has thrown his backing behind the interim government in Kiev and criticised the pro-Russian uprising in the east of the country in an unexpected intervention that could be a setback to the rebels.

Speaking days before Ukraine goes to the polls to elect a new president, Rinat Akhmetov accused the rebels of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic of plunging the area into violence and genocide and called on the public to oppose them.

Mr Akhmetov is known unofficially as the "landlord" of the eastern Donbass region, where Donetsk is located.

"People are tired of living in fear and terror," he said in a rare televised address on his own Ukrayina television channel. "People are tired of walking out into the street and falling under bullets."

Weapons

He went on to call for workers at all enterprises to down tools to call for a Donbass "without weapons and without masks".

"We won't be intimidated by anyone, including those who call themselves the Donetsk People's Republic," he said. The address marks the first time the man considered by many to be the most powerful in the country has taken sides.

Mr Akhmetov has links to Viktor Yanukovych, the former president, and the Party of the Regions, and has previously avoided criticising the rebels, confining himself to warnings about the economic consequences of independence.

The separatists responded on Twitter that Mr Akhmetov had made a choice to be "against the people of Donbass". Denis Pushilin, a leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, announced the nationalisation of major industrial assets following the comments.

"Oligarchs paying taxes to Kiev are effectively funding the activities of the Kiev junta," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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