Ukraine has officially been embroiled in a war with Russia for over a year, and the ripple effects have stretched farther than the eye can see. Rinat Akhmetov, often called the wealthiest man in the country, reflected on what the war has meant to his employees, his people, and his motherland at large. He also talked about how the rest of the world was affected by the battles and why it’s so crucial for authorities like President Joe Biden to stand up for human dignity and freedom.
“This war is much more than Putin’s attempt to take over Ukraine,” Rinat Akhmetov told Forbes. “This is a war against freedom and human dignity, against democracy and the free world, against the world order and security. We defend both ourselves and you. 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.”
The Nature of War
Akhmetov sees Russia’s assault on Ukraine as an attack against general human rights. So, while Ukraine may be the most affected now, he believes it’s only a matter of time before Russia continues its quest — unless they can be stopped by both the Ukrainian armed forces and the aid received by foreign allies.
As the president and founder of System Capital Management (SCM), Rinat Akhmetov has committed himself and his assets to helping war efforts from the first day of the attacks.
In January, he debuted his Heart of Azovstal program to assist soldiers and their families.
“Their acts of bravery are unparalleled in modern history,” Akhmetov declared. “It is them, their sacrifice and courage, that helped contain the enemy in the first months of the war and let all of us feel the inevitability of the victory of Ukraine now. I am allocating $25 million (1 billion hryvnia) today to help our soldiers, defenders, and their families.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin might have expected his invasion and takeover to be swift and efficient, but he’s been met with obstacle after obstacle. Part of why he’s been blockaded at multiple turns is thanks to patriots like Akhmetov. The mogul has already filed a lawsuit against the country in a European human rights court, a symbol of how far he’ll go to ensure Putin doesn’t get away with his entirely unjustifiable actions.
From the outside, war can look like pure chaos, as basic necessities are put aside to focus on more urgent matters. The reality is even more complex. People still need power, food, and medication to continue their daily lives. Mobilizing and delivering these supplies (often from outside the country’s borders) have all been focal points for Akhmetov’s charity foundation.
“I have not left Ukraine for a day,” he told Forbes. “I have the same feelings as all Ukrainians. I wake up and go to bed, thinking only of victory of Ukraine, and I do everything I can to bring it closer: from my morning conference calls to my daily meetings.”
To that end, he’s employing 150,000 people and providing them with full pay. He’s given $150 million to his country, more than 16% of which is going directly to help his employees in Mariupol — one of Ukraine’s most targeted port cities. His leadership team works around the clock to ensure the country’s infrastructure is getting the attention it needs to function. For instance, his energy holding concern, DTEK, is regularly subjected to shelling, which translates to constant maintenance and repairs. As an essential part of the country’s electricity grid, Akhmetov’s team cannot afford to allow threats to the country’s utilities.
His Metinvest Group, a steel and mining conglomerate, has also been particularly proactive during the last year. Facilities have produced 170,000 sets of body armor and around 100 military shelters strong enough to withstand Russia’s artillery shells. Akhmetov managed to pay more than $2 billion in taxes and fulfill his promises to investors over the past year. Considering the net losses Russia’s actions have imposed on him and his assets, his bottom line in 2022 is a testament to more than just his work ethic.
What Victory for Ukraine Looks Like
Around 13,000 of Rinat Akhmetov’s employees have been conscripted for national defense. More than 500 of his employees have unfortunately made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and another 1,000 have been wounded. There’s no restoration of justice under these circumstances. Lives cannot be restored, and the damage to the people and the families affected cannot be undone.
Akhmetov instead wants to see the borders entirely restored to Ukraine, including the more contentious areas of Crimea and Donbas. He also wants to see Putin pay for what he has done.
Crippling Russia financially and militarily, thanks to a concentrated effort of Ukraine and her allies, would send a strong message to the world about the consequences of baseless wars. Akhmetov praised Biden for visiting the country and pledging continued assistance. He asked everyone who supports Ukraine — including all G7 nations — to organize a reparations campaign on behalf of the civilians and businesses who have suffered due to Russia’s invasion.
“Our people have not only restored the energy grid and survived, but also showed Putin that we will never stop fighting for our freedom,” Akhmetov said in Forbes. “He thought that Ukrainians would shower him with flowers, but we have met Russian soldiers with guns defending every inch of our homeland.”