[Marxism] Ukraine’s Stalled Rebellion by Tim Judah | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 24 09:57:38 MDT 2014

Until now one of the big questions in the east has been about Rinat 
Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, who is based in Donetsk and is said to 
employ up to 300,000 people. He owns coalmines, steel plants, and power 
stations. Until recently he made mild statements about Ukrainian unity 
but also kept channels open to the separatists, whom many actually 
thought he was financing. On May 19, however, Akhmetov came off the 
fence. He called his workers to rallies the next day, in which they 
watched a video of him saying the rebels were leading “a fight against 
the citizens of our region” or listened to speeches by their bosses 
saying that continued instability could lead to the end of their 
businesses and jobs.

I went to one these rallies in the fabulous, modern 52,500-seat stadium 
of Shaktar Donetsk, the local football team owned by Akmetov. Only about 
three hundred people had shown up, mostly employees of the team or boys 
from the team’s football academy who had been bussed in. It was evident 
that what Akmetov had meant as a show of force had been badly planned 
and was a flop. Nevertheless, the next day his company issued a 
statement saying that a million people had come out in support. It was 
science fiction, but I wonder if Akhmetov is surrounded by yes-men and 
believed it.

When I asked Vladimir Kipen, a Donetsk political scientist, about 
employees being forced to attend such rallies, he just chortled, “That 
is Donetsk, c’est la vie!” Donetsk, he said, was characterized by 
“feudal relationships” and in those terms “Akhmetov is lord.” Still, he 
said, “I see you are surprised that he has such power but can’t do 
anything. All Ukraine is surprised!” But, he added, Akhmetov had one 
card up his sleeve that he has not yet played. He has an armed security 
force that guards his plants, and if and when he chose to deploy that 
against the rebels, many thought he would easily defeat them. Meanwhile 
the rebels are trying to force Akhmetov to pay taxes to the Donetsk 
republic and, since he is resisting, they are talking of nationalizing 
his assets.

More than a month ago I met Olena Yemchenko, an artist, and her husband 
Artyom. I met her at a pro-Ukrainian rally. A couple of nights ago I 
went back to see them and their two boys. Artyom runs a company whose 
shops sell household goods and whose name translates as “Cozy Home.” 
When I first met Yemchenko she had a little Ukrainian flag on the 
dashboard of her car, which surprised me, in view of the current 
political climate. A few days later she told me that someone had smashed 
the back window of her car. I asked Artyom what he had been doing for 
the last month. The answer was that he had been exploring the 
possibility of moving to Kiev or the west or emigrating. “If I come back 
in year,” I asked, “what do you reckon the chances of you still being 
here are?” Without hesitation he answered: “Fifty-fifty.” That may be a 
fair assessment of whether there is still a chance of a peaceful 
settlement of the Ukrainian conflict.


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