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The Rebel War Against Ukraine's Top Oligarch

Unresolved economic conflicts simmer during a tenuous cease-fire
The Rebel War Against Ukraine's Top Oligarch
Photograph by Natalia Seliverstova/Ria Novosti

Reva stands at a rebel checkpoint in a black tracksuit and T-shirt, his RPK light machine gun slung over his back. He proudly shows off the slogan penned on his weapon’s canvas strap: “Glory to the Donbas,” the industrial region at the heart of Ukraine’s civil war.

There hasn’t been a lot of glory in his life. He grew up in an 11-square-meter apartment in the manufacturing town of Khartsyzsk. “We never had enough for anything,” says Reva, who would only give his nom de guerre. At 22, he started work at the Khartsyzsk Pipe Plant, run by Metinvest. The steel giant is owned by Rinat Akhmetov, who’s worth an estimated $10.9 billion, making him Ukraine’s richest oligarch. “My pay was enough to survive, not to live,” Reva says. “What I think about Rinat might offend him. He made a lot of money off our backs, and he didn’t pay. Well, he paid, but it was only enough to survive.”