Ukraine's richest man Rinat Akhmetov, the owner of the Shakhtar Donetsk football club, is having a possibly decisive influence on Ukraine's standoff between the security forces and protesters.
Akhmetov has long been seen as a leading ally of President Viktor Yanukovych. He has bankrolled the ruling Regions Party which he formerly represented in parliament as an MP, and harks from the eastern Donetsk region that is the president's stronghold.But in a possible turning point in a crisis that has raised fears of a prolonged civil conflict, Akhmetov on Saturday issued a strong statement warning that the use of force against protesters was unacceptable and the only way forward was negotiations.
…his reasons for being so strongly against the use of a state of emergency to forcefully end the protests may not be entirely altruistic.
According to the influential news site Ukrainska Pravda, visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland warned Akhmetov at a secret meeting when she visited Kiev in December that he and other wealthy backers of the Regions Party could face EU and US sanctions if the police used force against the protesters.For a businessman with an international reputation and properties outside of Ukraine, including a luxury town house in London, this was clearly an unwelcome prospect.
Akhmetov was able to control a group of at least 40 MPs from the ruling Regions Party in the Verkhovna Rada parliament.
Fearing that a call for a truce was a ruse, protesters tossed firebombs and advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine's embattled capital. Government snipers shot back and the almost-medieval melee that ensued left at least 70 people dead and hundreds injured, according to a protest doctor.…A truce announced late Wednesday appeared to have little credibility among hardcore protesters. One camp commander, Oleh Mykhnyuk, told the AP even after the alleged truce, protesters still threw firebombs at riot police on the square. As the sun rose, police pulled back, the protesters followed them and police then began shooting at them, he said.
Ukrainian Parliament Deputy Speaker Ruslan Koshulynsky has announced that more parliamentarians have withdrawn from the Party of Regions faction.
In particular, Oleksandr Volkov, Yuriy Polyachenko, Vitaliy Hrushevsky, Volodymyr Dudka, Yaroslav Sukhy, Artem Scherban, and one more parliamentarian, whose name Koshulynsky pronounced unintelligibly, had left the Party of Regions faction.
Koshulynsky later announced the names of four other deputies who left the Party of Regions faction, i.e. Viktor Zherebniuk, Ivan Myrny, Hennadiy Vasylyev, and Nver Mkhitarian. He later added Larysa Melnychuk and Serhiy Katsuba to this list.
Hence, the Party of Regions has lost 41 deputies, including 28 on Friday and the other 14 on Saturday.
“Whenever possible, the violence should cause deaths and injuries. Encourage hunger strikes of numerous days, massive mobilisations, problems in the universities and other sectors of society now identified with government institutions.”