[Marxism] Billionaire Rinat Akhmetov seeks more power for Ukraine regions

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri May 16 17:06:29 MDT 2014


Financial Times May 14, 2014 7:31 pm
Billionaire Rinat Akhmetov seeks more power for Ukraine regions

By Guy Chazan in Donetsk

Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, has called for changes to the 
country’s constitution to give much more power to its regions.

It was the multibillionaire’s most forceful intervention in a crisis 
that threatens to tear Ukraine apart.

Mr Akhmetov, who sits atop an industrial empire of coal mines, steel 
works and power stations, rejected attempts by separatists in the 
eastern part of Ukraine, known as Donbass, to break away and either 
become independent entities or join Russia. “I strongly believe that 
Donbass can be happy only in [a] united Ukraine,” he said.

His comments, made in a televised address, were his most detailed yet on 
the conflict gripping eastern Ukraine and suggest that the country’s 
elite could be inching towards a settlement that could de-escalate the 
crisis.

They came just hours after Sergei Naryshkin, the Speaker of the Duma, 
the lower house of the Russian parliament, backed the idea of holding 
presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25 – an idea the rebels in the 
east reject.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, reiterated on Wednesday 
that Moscow had “no intention” of sending its troops into eastern Ukraine.

The conciliatory words came just a day after seven Ukrainian servicemen 
were killed in an ambush by pro-Russian separatist forces near 
Slovyansk, a town in the Donetsk region that has become a rebel stronghold.

Eastern Ukraine has been engulfed by unrest ever since the country’s 
former president Viktor Yanukovich, who is from the Donetsk region, was 
toppled from power in February.

In the weeks that followed, insurgents opposed to the government that 
replaced him seized government buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk and other 
towns, in a campaign that western governments said was orchestrated by 
Moscow.

Ukraine’s two easternmost regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, held referendums 
on self-rule at the weekend. The polls were condemned in the west as 
illegal but organisers said they delivered big majorities in favour of 
independence.

The separatist leadership of Donetsk on Monday declared the region a 
sovereign state and asked to become part of Russia.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin moved swiftly to annex Crimea and the 
EU and US are worried over Moscow’s intentions elsewhere in Ukraine

Mr Akhmetov said Ukraine faced four options: the first would leave 
everything as it is, with Kiev in charge – a model he said had “run out 
of steam and is not right for the future”.

The second was for Donetsk to become independent, which he also 
rejected. “Nobody in the world will recognise it,” he said, adding that 
the region, one of the most heavily industrialised in Ukraine, would be 
slapped with huge sanctions and “will not be able to sell or produce”.

A similar fate would await the region if it was annexed by Russia, he said.

Under the fourth scenario – which he described as “the only right way, 
in my view” – Ukraine would amend its constitution and decentralise its 
government. Regional governments would, according to this model, be 
elected and not appointed, and local authorities would be “responsible 
to the people for the present and future”.

His call comes at a time when much of Ukraine’s political elite is 
coming around to the idea that decentralisation could help end the 
country’s political crisis. Ministers are already in the process of 
drawing up proposals to increase the power of the regions.



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