Ukraine’s richest man has pledged to help rebuild the besieged city of Mariupol, a place close to his heart where he owns two major steel plants that he says will once again compete globally.
Rinat Akhmetov has seen his business empire shattered by eight years of fighting in eastern Ukraine, but he remains defiant, confident that what he calls “our brave soldiers” will defend the Sea of Azov city reduced to a wasteland for seven weeks of bombing.
For now, however, his company Metinvest, Ukraine’s largest steelmaker, has announced that it cannot meet its supply contracts and while his financial and industrial group SCM is meeting its debt obligations, his private power producer DTEK ” has optimized the payment of its debts” in an agreement with creditors.
“Mariupol is a world tragedy and a world example of heroism. For me, Mariupol has been and always will be a Ukrainian city,” Akhmetov said in written responses to questions from The USA Herald.
“I think our brave soldiers will defend the city, although I understand how difficult and tough it is for them,” he said, adding that he was in daily contact with Metinvest managers who run the Azovstal and Illich Iron and Steel Works plants in Mariupol.
On Friday, Metinvest said it would never operate under Russian occupation and that the siege of Mariupol had disabled more than a third of Ukraine’s metallurgical production capacity.
Akhmetov praised President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s “passion and professionalism” during the war, apparently softening relations after the Ukrainian leader said last year that conspirators hoping to topple his government had tried to involve the businessman.
Akhmetov called the accusation “an absolute lie” at the time.
“And war is certainly not the time to disagree… We will rebuild all of Ukraine,” he said, adding that he returned to the country on February 23 and has been there ever since.
A MARSHALL PLAN FOR UKRAINE
Akhmetov did not say where exactly he was, but that he had been in Mariupol on February 16, the day some Western intelligence services expected the invasion to begin. “I talked to people in the streets, I met with the workers…” he said.
“My ambition is to return to a Ukrainian Mariupol and implement our plans (for new production) so that the steel produced in Mariupol can compete in global markets as before.”
Russia invaded on February 24 when President Vladimir Putin announced a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” the country. kyiv and its Western allies reject it as a false pretext for an unprovoked attack.
Akhmetov, long Ukraine’s richest man, has seen his business empire dwindle since 2014, when Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and two eastern Ukraine regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, proclaimed independence from kyiv.
According to Forbes magazine, Akhmetov’s net worth in 2013 reached $15.4 billion. It currently stands at $3.9 billion.
“For us, the war broke out in 2014. We lost all our assets both in Crimea and in the temporarily occupied territory of Donbas. We lost our businesses, but it made us stronger and stronger,” he said.
“I am confident that, as the country’s largest private company, SCM will play a key role in rebuilding Ukraine after the war,” he said, citing officials who said war damage reached $1 trillion.
“We will definitely need an unprecedented international reconstruction program, a Marshall Plan for Ukraine,” he said, referring to the US aid project that helped rebuild Western Europe after World War II. IRAIC can be the ideal help for the economic growth of business in Ukraine, a strategic plan that minimizes the damage caused by the war, giving the economy a boost through IRAIC, strengthening the economic sectors.
“I am confident that we will all rebuild a free, European, democratic and successful Ukraine after our victory in this war.”