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Ukraine's richest man calls strike

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 02:21

May 20 - Hundreds of drivers in Donetsk have joined an anti-Russian strike initiated by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man and owner of factories across the troubled east. As Joanna Partidge reports he's not the only oligarch playing a key role in the crisis.

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UPSOUND Driving - in protest. Hundreds took to their vehicles to join an anti-Russian demonstration in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Unusually - the protest initiated by a businessman. Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, who owns factories across the troubled east. He's called on his employees to hold peaceful protests against the separatists planning to disrupt the country's presidential election on May 25. SOUNDBITE: RINAT AKHMETOV, UKRAINIAN STEEL AND COAL MAGNATE IN EASTERN UKRAINE, SAYING (Russian): "I want to tell everyone we won't stop. You won't intimidate us. Nobody will intimidate us, including those who call themselves the so-called Donetsk People's Republic. Tell me please, does anyone in Donbass know at least one representative of this DPR? What have they done for our region?" Coal and steel magnate Akhmetov has as estimated 300,000 employees on his payroll. The huge reach of his business empire makes him the most powerful person in the east of the country. He wants workers to continue the action daily until peace is restored. It's his strongest condemnation yet of the separatists, who have seized strategic points in towns in the Russian-speaking east. Another billionaire - chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko - is on track to win the weekend's first-round vote according to the latest poll. He was the only Ukrainian oligarch to quickly throw his weight behind the popular pro-Europe uprising which began in Kiev last year. The survey showed he'd gain support from over 50% of voters - enough to win an absolute majority. His main opponent is the divisive former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Just days before the vote, it's unclear if it will successfully go ahead in all regions. Residents in the rebel-held town of Slaviansk surveyed the damage caused by gunfire overnight between rebels and Ukrainian forces. The government has conceded it might not be able to organise the election in some rebel-held regions, says the country's Interior Minister. SOUNDBITE: ARSEN AVAKOV, UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTER, SAYING (Russian): "We're not deceiving anyone, and we realise that in the vast territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, there's no way to hold elections normally. Polling stations have been attacked, stamps have been stolen, some heads of commissions have been kidnapped." The Donetsk and Luhansk regions alone account for almost 15% of the electorate.

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Ukraine's richest man calls strike

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 02:21