Ukrainian tycoon’s call for rally against separatists goes largely unheeded

The Washington Post reports: A plea by Ukraine’s richest man for demonstrations against Russian-backed separatists met with a mixed response Tuesday as many of his own workers stayed on their jobs.

But many Ukrainians still saw the gesture by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov as a welcome, if symbolic, attempt to end the country’s fraternal strife while European leaders searched for diplomatic solutions to the crisis before Sunday’s presidential election.

Akhmetov, whose coal, steel and other holdings are the industrial might of the Donets Basin in eastern Ukraine, asked his 300,000 employees to join a noon peace rally against the separatist movement that, he said, could wreck the region’s economy. The call followed Akhmetov’s decision last week to form worker patrols to help police restore order on the streets of Mariupol, an industrial port city in southeastern Ukraine.

In Donetsk, several hundred pro-Ukrainian residents rallied just before noon at Donbas Arena. Organizers played the noise of a deafening factory whistle and urged the crowd to download a version of it that they could sound at noon every day as a show of unity.

But at the entrance to Akhmetov’s Ilyich steel plant in this city on the Sea of Azov, nobody stepped outside the factory gate when the plant whistle sounded at noon. [Continue reading…]

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