Coal produced in Krasnodon mines, on rebel territory, travels to the Avdiivka coking plant on the government side. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
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In this town deep in eastern Ukraine's rebel heartland, about a quarter of the population works in the coal mines owned by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man.At the same time, Akhmetov operates factories on the other side of the front line, powering Ukraine's economy and pouring hundreds of millions in taxes into government coffers.When the insurgency erupted in 2014, the Ukrainian government set about shutting down Ukrainian businesses in the east, and most private businessmen fled.Neither Akhmetov nor the rebels acknowledge that he is propping up the separatists. Metinvest and Krasnodonugol, Akhmetov's coal company, say they neither pay taxes to the rebel government nor directly finance the separatists. Akhmetov is also the largest provider of humanitarian aid in rebel territory, since the separatists will not allow Ukrainian government aid, and Western organizations are having difficulties delivering their own.For its part, Ukraine is dependent on Akhmetov for taxes, power generation and the coal mined in rebel lands. His energy company DTEK provides half of all coal produced in Ukraine and runs three giant power plants on separatist-held territory.Akhmetov's DTEK energy company, however, said this week that it still sends coal to Ukrainian power stations; and Krasnodonugol told AP that it is still selling coal to eastern and central Ukraine.
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