Ukraine's Richest Man Says He Will Give Up Business For Politics If He Wins Seat

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's richest man said Sunday that he is ready to give up business for politics if he wins a seat in next month's parliamentary elections, but denied he had any ambitions to become prime minister.

Billionaire Rinat Akhmetov

Rinat Akhmetov, a coal and steel magnate, is No. 7 on the party list of former prime minister and losing presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych - virtually assuring him a seat after next March's parliamentary elections.

Ukrainian news agencies quoted him as saying during a rare campaign appearance in eastern Ukraine that he would hand over control of his business assets to the team that manages his company, System Capital Management.

"I don't plan to work in the government, I plan to work in parliament," said Akhmetov, whose fortune has been estimated by Forbes magazine at US$2.4 billion (-2.0 billion).

His business empire also includes the country's third-largest steel producer, a popular daily newspaper and the Donetsk Shaktar soccer club.

"I'm a guy who takes responsibility, responsibility before society, before my 160,000 employees and responsibility before fans," he was quoted as saying by Interfax and Unian news agencies.

Yanukovych had suggested that he might tap Akhmetov to become prime minister if Yanukovych's Party of the Regions won enough support to form the governing coalition after the elections. That would make him No. 2 to President Viktor Yushchenko.

After Yushchenko took office last year, Akhmetov lost control over the country's largest steel mill, which he had bought in 2004 with the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma. A Ukrainian court later ruled that the sale had been illegal, and the mill was resold.

Source: AP