Rinat Akhmetov has seen his business empire torn apart by eight years of fighting in eastern Ukraine, but remains defiant, confident that what he calls our “brave soldiers” will defend the sea of Azov into a wasteland with seven weeks of bombing.
For now, though, his company, Metinvest, Ukraine’s largest steelmaker, has announced that it cannot enforce its supply contracts, and while its SCM financial and industrial group is servicing its debt obligations, private energy producer DTEK has “improved its debt repayment.” In agreement with creditors.
“Mariopol is a global tragedy and a global example of heroism. For me, Mariupol was and will be a Ukrainian city,” Akhmetov said in written answers to questions from Reuters.
“I believe that our brave soldiers will defend the city, although I understand how difficult and difficult it is for them,” he said, adding that he was in daily contact with the Metinvest managers who run the Azovstal and Illich iron and steel plants in Mariupol.
On Friday, Metinvest said it would never operate under Russian occupation and that the Mariupol blockade had disrupted more than a third of Ukraine’s mineral production capacity.
Akhmetov praised President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “passion and professionalism” during the war, apparently calming relations after Ukraine’s president said last year that conspirators hoping to overthrow his government tried to engage the businessman.
Akhmedov described the allegation at the time as an “absolute lie”.
“And war is certainly not a time for disagreement… We will rebuild the whole of Ukraine,” he said, adding that he returned to the country on February 23 and has been there ever since.
Marshall Plan for Ukraine
Akhmetov did not say where he was exactly, but he was in Mariupol on February 16, the day some Western intelligence services expected the invasion to begin. He said, “I talked to people in the streets, and I met workers…”.
“My ambition is to return to Ukraine’s Mariupol and implement our plans (new production) so that the steel produced by Mariupol can compete in world markets as before.”
Russia invaded on February 24 when President Vladimir Putin announced a “special operation” to disarm and “disarm” the country. Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss this as a false excuse to launch an unprovoked attack.
Akhmedov, Ukraine’s longtime richest man, has seen his business empire shrink since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea on the Black Sea and declared two regions in eastern Ukraine – Donetsk and Luhansk – independence from Kyiv.
According to Forbes, Akhmedov’s net worth was $15.4 billion in 2013. It currently stands at $3.9 billion.
“For us, the war broke out in 2014. We lost all our assets in the Crimea and in the temporarily occupied Donbass. We lost our business, but that made us tougher and stronger,” he said.
“I am confident that SCM, as the largest private company in the country, will play a major role in Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction,” he said, citing officials as saying the damage from the war amounted to $1 trillion.
“We will certainly need an unprecedented international reconstruction program, the Marshall Plan for Ukraine,” he said, referring to the US aid project that helped rebuild Western Europe after World War II.
“I trust that we will all rebuild a free, European, democratic and successful Ukraine after our victory in this war.”