Rinat Akhmetov recently gave an interview with Forbes in which he looked back at the past year. Ukraine’s richest man talked about what victory would look like for his motherland, how he’s managing his System Capital Management assets, what he’s doing to keep his employees paid, and how he’s been helping his country stay afloat.
SCM employs about 150,000 people a year into the war, and according to Akhmetov, all of them are receiving full pay. Akhmetov reported that 13,000 of his employees have been called to defend Ukraine, 517 have lost their lives, and another 1,000 have been wounded.
“We work unfailingly to provide financial aid and any other assistance to our injured employees and the bereaved families,” he told Forbes.
He’s been relentless about getting financial aid and other assistance to his workers and their families during this difficult time. His people are always his top concern. “I am staying in Ukraine just like many other Ukrainian people,” Akhmetov said. “I have not left Ukraine for a day. 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.”
Normal Operations, Abnormal Circumstances
Akhmetov revealed that the basic structure of his businesses hasn’t changed over the past year. The boards of his companies are still working around the clock to prioritize and address the big-ticket challenges. It’s only that the focus of his team has shifted to the needs of the war.
But it’s not easy.
“The state of SCM companies is the same as the state of Ukraine’s economy,” Akhmetov told Forbes. “It is dire. Part of Metinvest’s assets (Azovstal, Ilyich Steel, and several other plants) have been severely damaged or temporarily occupied. The assets of our energy holding DTEK are exposed to constant shelling and Russian drone attacks.”
Akhmetov is using whatever of his resources are still workable to produce armored shelters for the army and hundreds of thousands of bulletproof vests. Of all his holdings, it’s the Metinvest Group that’s been particularly instrumental in these efforts. Metinvest has made one out of every 10 suits of body armor used by the Ukrainian army. The shelters that Metinvest has produced are strong enough to withstand artillery shells. Astoundingly, Rinat Akhmetov is still fulfilling his commitments to his investors and filing his returns as he would in any other year. In 2022, SCM companies under the business mogul’s umbrella paid more than $2 billion in taxes.
This doesn’t mean Akhmetov’s portfolio hasn’t felt the brunt of the war’s brutality. Many of his plants across the country have been severely damaged by the assaults or occupied by Russian forces. Every day, his employees must repair and restore the facilities to keep everything going.
Donations, Production, and Aid
Akhmetov didn’t waste any time jumping into action when his country was attacked. For the last year, his foundation, his businesses, and his professional soccer team, FC Shakhtar Donetsk, have given more than $150 million to Ukraine. He allocated $25 million of this to Mariupol, to a project called Heart of Azovstal. Because this port city was so heavily targeted, his top priorities are the missing soldiers and the families of the soldiers who perished in the fighting.
He mobilized the delivery of medication, provided vehicles for defense forces, and made every effort to keep the country’s infrastructure up and running. Ukraine can’t afford to lose power during the wintertime, and Akhmetov and his team are on 24/7 duty on behalf of the public.
During the interview, Akhmetov took the time to praise President Joe Biden for visiting Ukraine and for offering additional assistance. He said, “The American people know what the fight for freedom is. The American people are helping Ukraine win this war. After all, this war is much more than Putin’s attempt to take over Ukraine.
“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.”
Rinat Akhmetov understands that the atrocities of Putin cannot be undone, but he expects both the leader and Russia to be punished for their baseless attacks. He also wants to see the country pay Ukraine reparations and a full restoration of Ukraine’s territory — including Donbas and Crimea. He’s already attempted to sue Russia by filing a lawsuit with the European courts.