Rinat Akhmetov recently commented about 170,000 civilians trapped in Mariupol without food and running water. He said, “The most horrible thing is that we can’t bring our aid to Mariupol, and we can’t evacuate people because the Russian troops continue to shell and block our aid convoys.” Akhmetov declined to disclose his exact location in the statement, saying only that he was back in Ukraine. He added that he won’t leave Ukraine again and is actively providing financial and military aid.
Akhmetov was the wealthiest person in Ukraine before the start of the war, with an estimated net worth of at least $6 billion. However, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index reports that figure has since dropped by more than 45%. One of his most closely held assets is Metinvest, an industrial group that owns two steel plants in Mariupol.
These plants have suspended operations and are serving as informal bases for Ukrainian troops. Metinvest is still paying salaries to the 40,000 people employed there. His other assets also generate electricity and other types of energy throughout Ukraine, which Akhmetov is currently using to aid the Ukrainian army and assist with evacuations. This level of activism appears to be a change for Akhmetov, who hadn’t commented much on the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine before the war.
Akhmetov has remained close to those in power in Ukraine throughout his career. His first business endeavors took place during the 1990s in his home city of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine. He expanded his operations in that region quickly when he bought industrial assets cheaply during a series of privatization initiatives in Ukraine.
Akhmetov and fellow Ukrainian, Victor Pinchuk, acquired a steel company for $800 million in 2004. Pinchuk was the son-in-law of Leonid Kuchma, who was the president of Ukraine at that time. The steel company sold for $4.8 billion the following year after Kuchma attempted to turn the presidency over to an ally, resulting in large-scale protests. The attempt failed, and Kuchma’s political rival became president.
Pro-European dissidents toppled Kuchma’s government in 2014, resulting in a proxy war between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists. This conflict took place in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, resulting in Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The separatists nationalized many private assets in this area, including some owned by Akhmetov.
Akhmetov has said that his SCM Group will file a claim against Russia, demanding compensation for the damages caused by the Russian attacks. He’s also expressed confidence that Ukraine will eventually receive reparations. In the meantime, Akhmetov is focusing his efforts on helping Ukraine win the war and alleviating the suffering of Ukrainians affected by it.
The Ukrainian government recently passed a law requiring people who qualify as oligarchs to unload some of their assets. This law applies to Akhmetov, one of the world’s 500 wealthiest people and the only Ukrainian on this list. SCM has investments in over 450 companies that span the banking, energy, and telecommunications sectors.
Many of these assets have been greatly affected by the war, including Metinvest, of which Akhmetov is a majority owner. This company was previously Ukraine’s biggest steelmaker, although it’s currently operating at less than half capacity. This reduction is disrupting Europe’s commodities market, although Metinvest is still paying all of its debts on time and in full. Furthermore, Metinvest has pledged to purchase armor for Ukrainian forces worth 330 million hryvnia, equivalent to about $11.2 million.
Akhmetov has also provided aid through other assets. Ukrainian troops have received clothing from Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine’s top soccer team, which Akhmetov owns. In addition, DTEK, Akhmetov’s energy company, is supplying free electricity to military and medical facilities. It’s also evacuating its staff members and their families from areas under attack.
Russia and Ukraine failed to agree to a cease-fire in talks that took place in Istanbul at the end of March. Akhmetov says he supports Zelensky’s efforts in ending the war and stresses that he has no hard feelings toward him. He also stated that Zelensky “demonstrates real passion and professionalism in executing his constitutional duty to defend Ukraine, its sovereignty, and restore its territorial integrity.” Akhmetov adds that a democratic, united Ukraine remains the common goal of the two men.