Ukraine's richest man Rinat Akhmetov has house surrounded by thousands of pro-Russian separatists

Group were armed with Kalashnikovs and Russian flags as they marched on the steel and coal magnate's home

Jack Simpson
Sunday 25 May 2014 21:17
A number of the protestors were armed with Kalashnikovs
A number of the protestors were armed with Kalashnikovs

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.

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.

A number of the protestors were armed with Kalashnikovs

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.

Akhmetov is thought to be worth over billion

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.

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