MARIUPOL, Ukraine — In what could represent a decisive turning point in the Ukrainian conflict and a setback for Russia, thousands of steelworkers fanned out Thursday over the city of Mariupol, establishing control over the streets and routing the pro-Kremlin militants who seized control several weeks ago.
By late Thursday, miners and steelworkers had deployed in at least five cities, including the regional capital, Donetsk, though they had not yet become the dominant force there that they are in Mariupol, the region’s second largest city and the site just last week of bloody confrontations between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian militants.
The workers are employees of Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man and a recent convert to the side of Ukrainian unity, who on Wednesday issued a statement rejecting the separatist cause of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic but endorsing greater local autonomy. His decision to throw his weight fully behind the interim government in Kiev could inflict a body blow to the separatists, already reeling from Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s withdrawal of full-throated support last week.
1. Imagine what they could do if they were able to buy/sell guns.
2. I want them to have a referendum, but it’s impossible while Russian intelligence agents and special forces are running around murdering and intimidating Ukrainian activists.