REINEKE FORD   ||   NEWS UPDATES

Fight against Ukraine rebels threatens more unrest

Comment: Off

Workers of the Ukrainian company Metinvest clear away debris in a government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Friday, May 16, 2014. Local patrols by steelworkers have forced pro-Russia insurgents to retreat from the government buildings they had seized in a major city in eastern Ukraine, giving residents hope that a wave of anarchy was over. Mariupol is the second-largest city in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, one of two regions that declared independence Monday from the central government in Kiev. Citizen patrols began there earlier this week as Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, urged steelworkers at his factories to help police restore order. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Workers of the Ukrainian company Metinvest clear away debris in a government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Friday, May 16, 2014. Local patrols by steelworkers have forced pro-Russia insurgents to retreat from the government buildings they had seized in a major city in eastern Ukraine, giving residents hope that a wave of anarchy was over. Mariupol is the second-largest city in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, one of two regions that declared independence Monday from the central government in Kiev. Citizen patrols began there earlier this week as Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, urged steelworkers at his factories to help police restore order. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Workers of the Ukrainian company Metinvest clear away debris in a government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Friday, May 16, 2014. Local patrols by steelworkers have forced pro-Russia insurgents to retreat from the government buildings they had seized in a major city in eastern Ukraine, giving residents hope that a wave of anarchy was over. Mariupol is the second-largest city in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, one of two regions that declared independence Monday from the central government in Kiev. Citizen patrols began there earlier this week as Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, urged steelworkers at his factories to help police restore order. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Two pro-Russian militants rest in shade at a checkpoint blocking the major highway which links Kharkiv, outside Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 16, 2014. Outside the strategic city of Slovyansk, which has been the key stronghold of the pro-Russian insurgents for more than a month now, the armed separatists installed a new check-point on the eastern approaches of the city blocking the major highway which links Kharkiv, the capital of the neighboring region, and the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don across the border. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Pro-Russian gunmen take their position behind a sign with the word ‘Slovyansk’, at a checkpoint blocking the major highway which links Kharkiv, outside Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 16, 2014. Outside the strategic city of Slovyansk, which has been the key stronghold of the pro-Russian insurgents for more than a month now, the armed separatists installed a new check-point on the eastern approaches of the city blocking the major highway which links Kharkiv, the capital of the neighboring region, and the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don across the border. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Pro-Russian gunmen walk past a sign with the word ‘Slovyansk’, at a checkpoint blocking the major highway which links Kharkiv, outside Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 16, 2014. Outside the strategic city of Slovyansk, which has been the key stronghold of the pro-Russian insurgents for more than a month now, the armed separatists installed a new check-point on the eastern approaches of the city blocking the major highway which links Kharkiv, the capital of the neighboring region, and the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don across the border. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Steelworkers from plants owned by the country’s richest man on Friday joined police on patrols to reverse the tide of lawlessness in this industrial port city.

About 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Mariupol, armed volunteers dressed in black stationed in a village just inside the troubled Donetsk region say they intend to expel their foes through force if necessary.

The groups opposed to pro-Russian insurgents who have swept through eastern Ukraine have scored early successes, but threaten to open a new and dangerously unpredictable cycle of confrontation.

Government forces have in recent weeks achieved limited results in quashing the self-styled Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” — armed formations that this week declared independence for their regions following contentious referendums.

That has handed the initiative to forces acting independently of authorities in the capital, Kiev.

In Mariupol, the second-largest city in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov’s Metinvest holding group agreed with steel plant directors, police and community leaders to help improve security and get insurgents to vacate the buildings they had seized.

Several dozen Metinvest workers in overalls and helmets Friday cleared out barricades of debris and tires outside the Mariupol government building. Trucks carried it away and by midday, the barricades were nearly gone.

“(Residents are) tired of war and chaos. Burglaries and marauding have to stop,” said Viktor Gusak, one of the Metinvest employees cleaning the street.

Akhmetov has been notable for his noncommittal during the turbulence that has for more than a month gripped the region that is home to his most lucrative industrial assets, so the development is noteworthy.

A video statement by Akhmetov, 47, on Thursday made it clear that his loyalties are not so much with the Kiev government but with his native Donbass — a territory that encompasses the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The only way, he said, was to effect major constitutional reforms, while preserving a united Ukraine.

“This is when power goes from Kiev to the regions. This is when authorities are not appointed but elected. And this is when local authorities take responsibility for people’s real future,” he said.

Independence or absorption into Russia would spell economic catastrophe for the region, he said.

Since President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster in February, Ukraine’s new leadership has reached out to oligarchs for help — appointing them as governors in eastern regions, where loyalties to

Comments

comments

About the Author