Rinat Akhmetov on Ukraine Upending Putin’s Expectations

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On Feb. 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a war against Ukraine. Since then, he’s blamed the continued conflicts on everyone but himself. Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine and founder of System Capital Management, has done so much to keep his country going during the darkest hours, and he recently spoke with Forbes about what it means to subvert the leader’s expectations at every turn.

It’s unclear precisely what Putin expected from Ukraine, but odds are, he wouldn’t have predicted this outcome a year into the war. The country has committed to keeping Russian advances at bay, and foreign allies like the United States are still very much paying attention to the news from the front lines. Rinat Akhmetov has praised leaders like President Joe Biden for visiting Ukraine in a show of solidarity and providing concrete assistance to the country’s armed forces.

He told Forbes, “The U.S. President Biden’s leadership and his visit to Kyiv is historic, and bipartisan support for Ukraine is unprecedented. I am grateful to the American people and their leaders for their tremendous help.”

It’s very much aligned with Akhmetov’s own mission. Not only did his charitable foundation mobilize to provide basic supplies (including food, water, medication, etc.) to civilians and soldiers alike, but he put his assets immediately to good work.

Metinvest Group, the steel and mining conglomerate, was particularly critical to his efforts. Even though Metinvest is operating at between 30% and 50% of its capacity, it’s been an undeniable resource for the troops. Making body armor and portable steel shelters, Akhmetov was determined to use his resources to protect soldiers and civilians alike. He even had his company make steel bracelets that were sold to raise money for troops.

More than $150 million in aid has been donated, $25 million of which was allocated to the port city of Mariupol. This was a particularly devastated area of the country, and its destruction was personal for Akhmetov. He had plans to open additional facilities there, as well as a free university.

His considerable number of assets, both domestic and international, have all been working in one way or another to ensure the country isn’t subjected to Putin’s regime. Even with all of the fighting, he’s managed to pay 150,000 workers in full, contribute $2 billion in taxes, and fulfill his commitments to investors.

Akhmetov has also been steadfast when monitoring the state of the infrastructure of Ukraine. For instance, DTEK, an energy holding that supplies electricity via solar, wind, and natural gas, has sustained ongoing attacks from Russian forces.

“We continue to restore our facilities after Russian missile strikes every day,” Akhmetov told Forbes. “All Ukrainian power companies restore damaged and destroyed facilities, helping the country to get through the winter. We are preparing for the large-scale reconstruction of our assets in Mariupol and are involved in the Mariupol Reborn project, a concept to rebuild the city.”

For every attack, Akhmetov and his team are providing more than just practical assistance, they’re boosting morale in some of the most war-torn areas of the country. More than 500 of his employees have already lost their lives, with another 1,000 wounded.

Akhmetov Talks Reparations

Rinat has been unabashedly vocal about wanting to see Russia pay for their crimes, having already sued them in a European court. He points out that Russia’s assault has little to do with Ukraine and everything to do with domination. Putin has concocted a story about his country, and his narrative threatens more than just a single neighboring country.

“We have only begun to file claims against the Russian Federation,” he declared. “The [European Court of Human Rights] is the first institution where we seek justice, and we are going to file claims with other organizations. Russia must be held accountable for everything it has done.”

Akhmetov wants to see Ukraine establish its borders once again, including hotly contested regions like Crimea. He also wants to see the country make concrete reparations to the civilians and the businesses that Russia has harmed in their endless quest. He calls on all supporters, including G7 countries, to do their part. Unless the free world bands together, it will be difficult to enforce these punishments, which will only encourage Russia to branch out.

“After all, this war is much more than Putin’s attempt to take over Ukraine,” he said. “This is a war against freedom and human dignity, against democracy and the free world, against the world order and security.”

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