Ukraine's Richest Man Takes Aim at Pro-Russian Separatists, Calls For Unity

May 23, 2014, 04:51 ET from Ukraine Monitor

KIEV, Ukraine, May 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --

Ahead of Sunday's Presidential Election Ukraine's richest man Rinat Akhmetov has delivered a rallying call for a united Ukraine, urging daily protests by his own workers until the unrest in the country's east ends.

His appeal, made in a Youtube video, could prove important in shaping Ukraine's immediate future. It will help end speculation that the country's powerful oligarchs are siding with the pro-Russian movement at the very time support for the separatist gunmen in the east is waning.

"We shall not be frightened," he declared in his video.

"No one will frighten us including those calling themselves a Donetsk People's Republic".

By harnessing the dissatisfaction of his own workers Akhmetov is adding a new economic element to the battle for Ukraine's future and its industrial heartland. He said that beyond the awful bloodshed, the crisis is inflicting a huge financial cost on ordinary Ukrainians.

"Cities are witnessing banditry and looting," he said.

"Is this a peaceful life? Is this a strong economy? Is this good jobs and salaries? No".

Akhmetov's wealth is valued at more than $12 billion and comes from more than 100 businesses in metals and mining, power generation, financial services, telecommunications, media and real estate.

His empire grew rapidly during the rule of former President Viktor Yanukovych prompting some to wonder where his loyalties now lie. After this video address there should be no doubt.

His words will also give a timely boost to the credibility of Sunday's presidential election which has been subjected to repeated attempts to undermine it by Russia and its separatist supporters.

That election is expected to be won by fellow oligarch Petro Poroshenko, who has consistently led in the opinion polls.

Akhmetov's intervention comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin faces intense international pressure to halt his clandestine Russian support for the separatist movement.

The first afternoon protest this week was a success. Akhmetov had called for both a peaceful demonstration and for cars to honk their horns in support. In his own town of Donbass drivers took up his challenge, with Ukrainian television news showing the streets drowned in noise.

SOURCE Ukraine Monitor