Ukraine Billionaire’s Workers Rout Protesters, Seize Mariupol

Oligarch Warns Independence Would Threaten Steel Industry

by Jason Ditz, May 15, 2014

The situation in the eastern port city of Mariupol just got a lot more complicated, as the city that had been the scene of multiple battles between secessionist protesters and the western-backed military saw a new force emerge and seize the entire city in a matter of a day.

Mariupol is now under the total control of steelworkers loyal to Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, who yesterday issued a statement warning that eastern autonomy would mean economic ruin for the steel industry, and call on his employees to “restore order.”

Thousands of steelworkers took over Mariupol with almost no resistance, and employees of Akhmetov’s steel company, including both factory workers and miners, have moved on several other cities across Donetsk, though in smaller numbers.

Akhmetov’s companies employ some 280,000 people across eastern Ukraine, and he told his employees in no uncertain terms that regional autonomy would cost them export markets in Europe, and potentially put their steel mills at risk.

Though Akhmetov had previously given some lip-service to increased federalization in Ukraine, his business interests now seem squarely centered on ending any hope of self-rule in Donetsk, and with factory workers feeling their livelihoods at risk, he has his own army with an eye on capturing the region back for the pro-West regime.

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