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