Quite astonishing emotional outburst from Rinat Akhmetov yesterday when he confronted a very small picket of protesters outside his house in Donetsk. [Video and story here ]
He is the man who owns one of the biggest industrial/financial conglomerates in Europe, and is one of Europe's wealthiest men, yet he acted like an adolescent complaining in a fit of temper how unfair life was. His biggest gripe seemed to be that the activists were claiming he was in London. He pulled over in his big Merc just to prove he was not, and that they were lying; yet no-one pointed out that he owns a fleet of jets - he could be in Ukraine for breakfast, London for lunch, and back in Donetsk for teatime..
Akhmetov has an army of lawyers and bodyguards to pander to his every whim, and a team to sort out his P.R., so why the personal outburst?
I think he tackled the protesters with good intention but without much forethought. The reclusive Akhmetov, normally immaculately dressed whenever he appears in public ...looked distinctly 'casual' in track suit and trainers, almost scruffy. There were no minders with him who would have urged him to refrain from stepping amongst the dozen or more protesters and journalists.
I think it was done spontaneously to show other members of the government that "we got to stand up to these guys", not hide behind high security fences in our massive residences which are, as Yuriy Lutsenko puts it, "filled with slag heaps of stolen tat".. Unfortunately, instead of inviting the protesters inside for a cup of coffee and a friendly chat, he seemed to 'lose it'. After offering seasonal greetings he gradually started speaking rather incoherently in an emotionally charged manner, waving his finger at everyone..
But this is a man who has allegedly in the past smashed the windows of the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of his Shakhtar Donetsk soccer players with a baseball bat if he was unhappy with their performance...
He claimed in his outburst: "All say sanctions, sanctions, sanctions..." Yet the protesters were not saying anything about sanctions at all. Is someone from abroad putting the squeeze on Rinat in this regard?" Freudian slip perhaps?
Protests outside the president's, and other highly placed government officials' residences seems to have struck a raw nerve. Last Sunday's 'Avtomaidan' rally outside Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya was organised by activists, not by the political opposition, yet it was enormously successful. Some accounts claim well over 1000 vehicles, maybe 1500 took part.. [15 minute video here] Opposition speakers hurriedly jumped on the bandwagon..and not only metaphorically...
The entire 'Yevromaidan' is being driven by the regular joe in the street, many of them i.m.o. younger and more sophisticated that than any of Ukraine's politicians, hence no-one can say for sure where it is all heading. This is why the likes of Akhmetov find it so disturbing.
They know the hundreds of thousands of protesters are having 'positive emotional experiences' attending the 'Yevromaidan' rallies which generate an intoxicating blend of joy, unity and pride amongst participants. They have amazingly surprised themselves how it has gone so far. These feelings, linked with an edge of danger and fear, cannot be easily erased.
Ironically Yanukovych, Akmetov and the rest are more entrenched in power than ever before, but they have never before been so fearful about their future because they have nothing to match this. Any pacification attempt will be massively counter-productive.
Akhmetov's instinct is probably correct; the opposition must be contacted and a proper dialogue commenced if the Donetsk ruling junta are to have any long term future in large swathes of Ukraine..even if his attempt was inept.
Sadly, the president and his ministers still have their heads up their a**. In his report on the New Year celebrations interior minister Zakarchenko, most childishly, did not even mention the hundreds of thousands who were in the Maidan in Kyiv last night, [perhaps 'The largest New Year's Eve party in Europe.'] He did claim though that : "The most crowded events took place in the Dnepropetrovsk region (43 events attended by 165 thousand people) and in Kharkiv (where almost 90 thousand people took part in 34 ceremonies).
p.s . According to Yanukovych, "his country's disallowed goal against England in Euro 2012" was included in a marathon list of grievances he held against the European Union which he presented to visiting US officials recently...
Now we know the truth why the AA was not signed...It was the fault of the Hungarian referee...