Armed pro-Russian separatists have gathered outside the Donetsk home of Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, on a day where Ukranian citizens voted for their next president.
Reports from outside the billionaire’s home said that pro-Russian separatist forces armed with Kalashnikov’s and Russian flags had marched on the property chanting “Akhmetov is an enemy of the people”.
A group of more than 2,000 pro-Russian separatists and their supporters left a rally in Donetsk’s Lenin Square with the aim of confronting Mr Akhmetov, who is said to be worth over $12 billion.
Journalists reporting on the protest outside the property said that the atmosphere was tense and threatening.
A live webcam was set up outside the property to film the protests as the group continued to grow.
A spokesman for Mr Akhmetov, Jock Mendoza-Wilson, said that the coal and steel magnate was in Kiev but had wanted to return to Donetsk today so he could vote.
In pictures: The Ukraine crisis
In pictures: The Ukraine crisis
1/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian soldiers from the 'Azov' battalion guard their base in Mariupol, Donetsk
2/39 Ukraine crisis
Children were transferred from orphanages in Donetsk and Makeyevka to escape the fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists
3/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian servicemen captured by pro-Russian separatists sit on the ground as they are assigned to clean a street in Snizhne in the Donetsk region
4/39 Ukraine crisis
A view inside the Youth Culture Centre destroyed by pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk
5/39 Ukraine crisis
A woman holds a portrait of her dead son as she speaks during a rally in front of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office in Kiev
6/39 Ukraine crisis
A boy ascends the stairs of a bomb shelter after the shelling in the Petrovskiy district in Donetsk
7/39 Ukraine crisis
A medic looks at thirty coffins prepared for the funerals of pro-Russian rebels killed during heavy fighting at Donetsk airport, outside a Donetsk morgue
8/39 Ukraine crisis
Relatives mourn near the coffin of Mark Zverev, a taxi driver shot dead during clashes at the Donetsk airport between Ukrainian troops and the pro-Russian rebels, during his funeral in the village of Grabari on the outskirts of Donetsk
9/39 Ukraine crisis
Medical workers carry a wounded pro-Russian militant on a stretcher after armed clashes occured between pro-Russian gunmen and Ukrainian troops in Slavyansk
10/39 Ukraine crisis
A member of a newly-formed pro-Russian armed group called the Russian Orthodox Army mans a barricade near Donetsk airport
11/39 Ukraine crisis
Black smoke rises from a shot down Ukrainian Army helicopter outside Slovyansk
12/39 Ukraine crisis
A woman is overcome with emotion as she looks at blood stains and damage around a wrecked truck of supporters of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' on road leading to the Donetsk International Airport
13/39 Ukraine crisis
A local man looks at damage near a wrecked truck of supporters of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' on road leading to the Donetsk International Airport
14/39 Ukraine crisis
A bloodstained icon of Jesus is seen among blood soaked shattered glass atop a wrecked truck near the Donetsk airport
15/39 Ukraine crisis
A family member attends a funeral for Olga Prokhorenko (60) who was killed by shrapnel after Ukrainian government forces shelled their location, during the funeral in Slovyansk
16/39 Ukraine crisis
A woman reacts after seeing the lifeless body of a man killed by shrapnel following a shelling from Ukrainian government forces in Slovyansk
17/39 Ukraine crisis
Pro-Russian militants take position on the roof of the international airport of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk
18/39 Ukraine crisis
A woman embraces a pro-Russian separatist from the "East" battalion during a rally in the eastern city of Donetsk
19/39 Ukraine crisis
A Ukrainian helicopter Mi-24 gunship fires its cannons against rebels at the main terminal building of Donetsk international airport
20/39 Ukraine crisis
A pro-Russian gunman changes his position near the airport, outside Donetsk
21/39 Ukraine crisis
A pro-Russian gunman aims his weapon near the airport, outside Donetsk. Ukraine's military launched air strikes against separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern capital of Donetsk in what appeared to be the most visible operation of the Ukrainian troops since they started a crackdown on insurgents
22/39 Ukraine crisis
Pro-Russians ride on a truck in Donetsk. A convoy of an armored personnel carrier and seven trucks carrying several hundred heavily armed men drove through central Donetsk and gunmen got out of the trucks, stood to attention and gave shots in the air in jubilation as a crowd of several thousand supporters cheered them and chanted: "Heroes!"
23/39 Ukraine crisis
An elderly woman leans against the chest of a pro-Russian gunman in Lenin square in Donetsk
24/39 Ukraine crisis
Pro-Russian militants guard a psychiatric hospital after shell explosions during the fighting between pro-Russian militants and the Ukrainian army, in Semyonovka village, outside Slavyansk
25/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian troops stand guard at a checkpoint on the road near the eastern city of Izum, Donetsk
26/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of the Democratic Alliance party take part in a performance in front of the French embassy in Kiev. Protesters set up a pool with the blood of animals and models of warships in a protest against French plans for the sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers to the Russian Navy
27/39 Ukraine crisis
A man carries a portrait of pro-Russian activist Vadim Hudich, who was killed in a shooting incident at the head of a funeral procession in the eastern Ukranian town of Krasnoarmeisk
28/39 Ukraine crisis
A voter is seen inside a voting booth at a polling station during the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk
29/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of a local election commission sort ballots as they start counting votes of referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
30/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box as they start counting votes of the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in Donetsk
31/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of a local election commission empty ballot boxes as they start counting votes after a referendum, at a polling station in Lugansk
32/39 Ukraine crisis
Local residents watch as others give first aid to a man who was shot in the leg by Ukranian militia in the village of Krasnoarmisk. Eyewitness said that Ukranian militia tried to stop the referendum voters briefly taking the City Hall of Krasnoarmisk, where unarmed pro-Russian supporters were gathering. Reportedly the Ukranian militia came out out the building and started shooting at the people, killing at least one man and leaving at least two others injured
33/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of a local election commission count votes after a referendum organized by the so-called Donetsk People's Republic members at a polling station in Donetsk
34/39 Ukraine crisis
Voters visit a polling station to take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk
35/39 Ukraine crisis
An Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) with a Russian flag drives through the center of Slaviansk during the day of referendum organized by the so-called Donetsk People's Republic members in Slavyansk
36/39 Ukraine crisis
A statue of Lenin is placed in front of a pro-Russian barricade on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk
37/39 Ukraine crisis
A feamle veteran (C) sings during 'Victory Day' celebrations in Donetsk
38/39 Ukraine crisis
People stand near the burning Mariupol police station
39/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard beside an armoured personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol. Ukrainian forces seized the rebel-held city hall in the eastern port city of Mariupol, driving out pro-Russian activists, then withdrew, making no attempt to hold onto the building
Pro-Russian protesters are angry at Mr Akhmetov who has been particularly vocal in denouncing the actions of separatists in Donetsk and the Donbass region.
On Tuesday, he encouraged those against the separatists to rally for peace inside the stadium of Shaktar Donetsk Football Club, which he owns.
After the rally, which attracted hundreds of supporters, Mr Akhmetov broadcast a stinging criticism of the separatists on his own television station, Ukrayina TV.
In the broadcast, Akhmetov said that people were tired of living in “fear and terror” and warned if the actions of the separatists continued he could “foresee the genocide of the Donbass".
He encouraged Ukrainians – including his own employees – to continue to stage “peaceful protests” until “peace was re-established".
Following the broadcast Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, posted on the party’s twitter feed: "Akhmetov has made his choice. Unfortunately, he chose against the people of Donbass. Paying taxes to Kiev means financing terrorism in Donbass."
There have also been threats from separatists that they will seize Mr Akhmetov’s assets in the Donbass.
The protests come on the day where Ukrainians have flocked to vote for the country’s next president.
In what some are touting as the most important election since the country gained independence in 1991, a high turnout is expected in western and central parts of Ukraine.
However, in eastern regions, many polling stations were unable to be opened.
In the Russian-speaking Donetsk region, it has been reported that only 20 per cent of polling stations have been opened, with none opened in the city itself.
Ukrainians are voting for their first elected leader since Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February.
The current favourite is the ‘Chocolate King’ Petro Poroshenko. The popular businessman is expected to beat his biggest rival for the leadership,Yulia Tymoshenko, when the votes are counted later today.
During Mr Poroshenko’s campaign he has promised to reunite and bring stability back to the Ukraine.
Despite his intentions, clashes continue between government forces and pro-Russian insurgents.Reuse content