Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, has pledged to help rebuild the city of Mariupol

Rinat Akhmetov

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Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, has pledged to help rebuild the besieged city of Mariupol, “the place close to his heart,” Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

Akhmetov owns two huge steel plants in Mariupol that he says will return to work, and compete again globally, after the end of the war. Akhmedov’s business empire is stagnating due to eight years of fighting in eastern Ukraine, but he is still certain that “brave soldiers” will defend the city that has turned into a wasteland after seven weeks of bombing. Although his company, Metinvest, Ukraine’s largest steelmaker, has announced that it cannot carry out its supply contracts, and while his SCM financial and industrial group is also servicing only its debt obligations, Akhmedov’s private energy producer DTEK also “may improve the payment of his debts” in an agreement with creditors. “Mariopol is a global tragedy and a global example of heroism,” Akhmetov said in written answers to questions from Reuters. “For me, Mariupol was and will be a Ukrainian city.”

“I believe our brave soldiers will defend the city, although I understand how difficult it is for them,” he said. He added 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 determination” during the war, “which indicates the return of warmth to their relations, after they declined last year,” Reuters says.

The Ukrainian president said last year that conspirators hoping to overthrow his government had tried to involve a Ukrainian businessman, in reference to Akhmedov. Akhmedov described the allegation at the time as an “absolute lie”. “Certainly, war is 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.

Mariopol

Marshall Plan for Ukraine

Akhmetov did not say his exact whereabouts, but said he was in Mariupol on February 16, the day some Western intelligence services expected the invasion to begin. “I talked to people in the streets and met workers,” he said, then continued, “My ambition is to return to Ukraine’s Mariupol and implement new production plans so that the steel produced by Mariupol can compete in world markets as before.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what President Vladimir Putin declared a “special operation” to disarm the country, while most countries of the world describe it as an unjustified war and aggression against a neighboring country. Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, has long 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, and it currently stands at $3.9 billion. “For us, the war broke out in 2014, not only today, we lost all our assets in the Crimea and in the occupied Donbass, but that makes us tougher and stronger,” he said. He added, citing officials, that the damages from the war amounted to one trillion dollars, but added, “I am confident that SCM, as the largest private company in the country, will play a major role in the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war.”

“We will definitely need an unprecedented international reconstruction program, we need a Marshall Plan for Ukraine,” he said, referring to the US aid project that helped rebuild Western Europe after World War II. Then he went on to say, “I trust that we will all rebuild a free, European, democratic and successful Ukraine after our victory in this war.”

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