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Bishkek (AKIpress) - Ukraine’s richest man has spoken out against the insurgent movement in eastern Ukraine, in an unexpected intervention that could be a major setback to the rebels, The Telegraph reported.
Speaking in a rare televised address on Monday night, Rinat Akhmetov accused the leaders of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk of jeopardizing the region’s economy, terrorizing the population, and committing a “genocide of the Donbass.”
“People are tired of living in fear and terror,” he said. “People are tired of walking out into the street and falling under bullets. Today, representatives of the so-called DNR took over the railway. They didn’t just stop the trains, they stopped the heart of the Donbass. Because without the railways Donbass industry will die.”
He went on to call for workers at all enterprises to down tools in order to protest for a Donbass “without weapons and without masks.”
“We are not intimidated by anyone, including those who call themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic,” he said.
The Donbass is the coal-producing region that includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Akhmetov, who employs some 300,000 people at enterprises including coal mines and steel works, is unofficially known as “the land lord of the Donbass.”
He has previously avoided publicly taking sides in the struggle between the Kiev government and pro-Russian rebels, confining himself to warnings about the economic impact of full independence or unification with Russia, and calling instead for devolving power from Kiev to the regions.
The latest intervention appears to have been prompted by growing threats to his business interests, especially crucial rail links, and the prospect of violence in the region spiraling out of control.