According to the Associated Press, pro-Russian forces left government buildings in Mariupol after local steelworkers took control and forced out the rebels. The men work at Metinvest, which is owned by Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov. Earlier in the week, he asked his employees to work with the police to restore order.
Mariupol saw its fair share of violence between pro-Russians and pro-Ukrainians since the rebels took over in mid-April. It is one of the cities that declared independence from Ukraine on Monday after a hastily put together referendum that was doused in voting violations and fraud. But on Friday, the AP saw no pro-Russians.
German Mandrakov, once the commander of Mariupol’s occupied government building, told The Associated Press on Friday that his associates fled while he was “forced” to leave the building they had controlled for weeks.
“Everyone ran away,” he said, using a vulgar Russian word for cowards. “Someone is trying to sow discord among us, someone has signed something, but we will continue our fight.”
Now the steelworkers from Matinvest are cleaning up the barricades and streets.
“(Locals are) tired of war and chaos. Burglaries and marauding have to stop,” said Viktor Gusak, one of the Metinvest employees cleaning the street.
That behavior was normal when the pro-Russians were in charge. Police spokeswoman Yulia Lafazan said the work by Akhmetov’s employees is already helping lower the crime rate and people feel safer.
“For the first time (in weeks), I can go out shopping without fear,” said local resident 47-year-old Valentyna Tochilina.
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) May 16, 2014