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Once Rivals, Now Friends: Ukraine’s Billionaires Stand With Zelensky As Russia Wages War

Ukraine's richest man, Renat Akhmetov, and owner of football club Shakhtar Donetsk along with other oligarchs have expressed their support for Zelensky and stayed back home to face Russian aggression. (Image: Reuters File)

Ukraine's richest man, Renat Akhmetov, and owner of football club Shakhtar Donetsk along with other oligarchs have expressed their support for Zelensky and stayed back home to face Russian aggression. (Image: Reuters File)

Ukraine's richest met the nation's president Zelensky earlier this week and assured him of their support. Most of them are in Ukraine as Russia wages war

Ukrainian oligarchs who developed troubled relationships with the Ukrainian government led by president Volodymyr Zelensky have come together to defend Ukraine, setting their differences aside. An example of this was seen on Friday when former president Petro Poroshenko was seen in the streets of Kyiv wielding an AK-47 showing resolve against the Russian forces who invaded Ukraine.

Poroshenko also took the lead, an oligarch himself he met Zelensky earlier this week and set aside his differences with the president and later was seen on the streets, according to a report by Forbes. The report also highlighted that Ukrainian billionaires Rinat Akhmetov and Vadim Novinsky travelled to Mariupol, which is facing waves of attacks from the Russian forces and yet has not capitulated at the time of writing this report, and told the workers in their factories that they were getting a salary bump.

Rinat Akhmetov and Vadim Novinsky have assets in Ukraine over $500 million while billionaires Victor Pinchuk, Kostyantin Zhevago and Serhiy Tihipko also have assets worth more than $200 million. They all understand that if Putin is coming for Ukraine, he will come for their assets as well. Pro-Russian Novinsky also decided to put aside differences and support the Ukrainian government. Taras Berezovets, a Ukrainian political analyst and TV host told Forbes that public outrage may have pushed Novinsky closer to Ukraine.

Akhmetov owner and president of the Ukrainian football club Shakhtar Donetsk suffered massive losses when Crimea was annexed and rebel leaders took control of Donetsk and Luhansk. He also lost the Donbass Arena stadium to the rebels – a stadium which once was a witness to the football club’s meteoric rise in UEFA Champions League – a continental football competition.

Akhmetov’s commitment towards Slava Ukraina only doubled down when Donetsk was declared a so-called republic by Putin last week. It is then the billionaire said that it has been a long time since he visited his childhood home in Donetsk, which is now ruled by separatist rebels.

Pinchuk, who turned West and even treated dignitaries to a Ukrainian lunch in the Munich Security Conference held earlier this month, asked his European friends to feel their responsibility. “We will fight, we are tense, but we won’t panic. We count on Europe and the West’s strong and full support. We hope you feel your responsibility,” he was quoted as saying to the European dignitaries.

Pinchuk, now at home in Ukraine, stands with Zelensky probably sharing the same feelings his president feels – of being left alone to defend Ukraine as the NATO, the US and West ‘watch from afar.’

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first published:February 26, 2022, 16:42 IST