After last week’s New York Times reported “rout” of pro-autonomy protesters in eastern Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol didn’t pan out, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov decided to take another shot at it this week.
Akhmetov sees his business interests at risk in the event of Mariupol’s secession, and continues to rail against the “economic ruin” the protesters would bring, urging his hundreds of thousands of employees to attend counter-rallies.
Yet despite continued media reports of Akhmetov’s counter-secession moving being a fait accompli, the rallies have been sparsely attended, to say the least, and don’t seem to have seriously stalled the protest movement anywhere.
Akhmetov organized a “peace rally” against secession for noon today, urging his 300,000 employees to take to the streets of Mariupol in support of Kiev’s central government. Instead of a few hundred thousand, the rally saw a few hundred turn out, as virtually no one left his factories at lunch to attend.
Though Akhmetov’s own business interests are somewhat imperiled by a potential loss of export markets in western Europe, the reality is that eastern Ukraine is an economic basketcase to begin with, so his admonitions not to rock the boat are ringing pretty hollow to the man on the street.