04/17/2014 12:13 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2014

Ukrainian Billionaire Puts Bounty On Head Of Russian 'Saboteurs'


By Pavel Polityuk and Alastair Macdonald

KIEV, April 17 (Reuters) - A billionaire regional governor in eastern Ukraine put a $10,000 bounty on the head of any Russian "saboteur" on Thursday and pledged a reward for the Ukrainian troops who shot protesters at their base overnight.

Aides to banking and energy tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, who was appointed last month by the new government in Kiev to run the industrial region of Dnipropetrovsk, also offered payments for weapons handed in to the local authorities and a reward of $200,000 for anyone who "liberated" an occupied public building.

It was the latest in a cascade of piecemeal initiatives from Ukrainian leaders since pro-Russian militants - backed, Kiev says, by special forces sent by Moscow - seized facilities in the nearby regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

It also highlighted the role of wealthy business "oligarchs" in Ukraine's politics - and in its relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Borys Filatov, Kolomoisky's deputy governor, said on Facebook a decision had been taken to send 500,000 hryvnia - about $45,000 - to the National Guard personnel in Mariupol in Donetsk region who "beat back an attack" overnight.

Officials in Kiev said the troops killed three pro-Russian separatists in the worst violence since the overthrow of Ukraine's Moscow-backed president two months ago. Opposition activists said the guardsmen fired on peaceful demonstrators.

Putin, who denies fomenting unrest in the Russian-speaking east, called Kolomoisky a "unique impostor" last month. The billionaire, at his first news conference as governor, described the Russian president as "a schizophrenic, short in stature".

Kolomoisky's Privatbank, Ukraine's biggest lender, has said it is selling its Russian unit due to political pressure.


In a video statement posted online, the leader of a newly formed regional militia in Dnipropetrovsk ran down a list of bounties available, apparently across the eastern regions:

"For each saboteur handed over, the headquarters of the national defencs in Dnipropetrovsk region announces a reward in the amount of 10,000 U.S. dollars," Yuri Bereza said.

It would pay $1,000 for a rifle, $1,500 for a machine gun and $2,000 for a grenade-launcher. Promising to protect informants' anonymity and to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens, Bereza added: "For every liberated building handed over to local authorities ... the reward is $200,000."

Since last week, about 10 sites have been taken over, though none in Dnipropetrovsk. The Kiev government has announced an action to dislodge activists, some of whom say they want union with Russia. But so far no occupations have been ended by force.

"As long as there are women and children around the occupied buildings, we cannot liberate these buildings," said Marina Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the SBU state security service.

Ukrainian and Western officials scoff at Russian denials of involvement in the unrest. Ostapenko said "about 10" Russian citizens were being held as suspected spies. Ukraine's counter-intelligence service said this week a total of 40 Russians and Ukrainians had been detained in the past few weeks. (Editing by Andrew Roche)



Trouble In Ukraine's East