Residents receive food from employees of the Emergency Ministry near City Hall in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on July 6, 2014. Government forces hoisted the Ukrainian flag over the pro-Russian rebels' main stronghold of Slavyansk on June 5 after flushing them out of the eastern industrial city, the defence minister said. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEY BOBOK
Billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, despised for this long-time support of the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, renewed his call today for negotiations as Ukraine's military offensive made gains over the weekend with the liberation of former Donetsk Oblast separatist strongholds Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Yanukovych, overthrown on Feb. 22 by the EuroMaidan Revolution and now hiding in Russia from mass murder and other charges, is suspected of helping to finance the Kremlin-backed separatists who have been waging war against Ukraine for more than three months in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, home to 15 percent of the nation. Initially Akhmetov, who does substantial business with Russia, did not publicly condemn the pro-Russian insurgents, but in recent weeks has come out strongly in favor of a unified Ukraine and against separatism. Because of his wealth and his employment of 300,000 people, many believe Akhmetov can influence how the conflict ends.