Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov announced in a press release on October 6, 2022 that Ukraine would begin selling bracelets to raise money in support of that country’s armed forces. The bracelets are made from the last batch of steel produced by the Azovstal steel plant before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 22, 2022. United24, Ukraine’s fundraising platform, will oversee the sales and primarily use these funds to buy drones for the Ukrainian army. The Azovstal plants are owned by Metinvest, which represents Rinat Akhmetov’s mining interests in Ukraine.
Fedorov added that the word “Azovstal” represents the country’s courage and spirit, referring to the fact that this plant was the last stronghold of the Ukrainian military in Mariupol. This port city is located in the Donetsk Oblask, where the majority of the fighting is occurring. Russian forces completely occupied Mariupol by May and have since imposed a blockade separating it from the rest of the country. Russian forces have captured many Ukrainian troops in this region, which they have started to release back to Ukraine. For example, 215 prisoners of war (POWs) were released on September 21, which included 108 members of the National Guard’s Azov Regiment.
Akhmetov is the son of a coal miner and grew up in the Donetsk oblast in eastern Ukraine. This region was previously invaded by Russia in 2014, where the majority of his assets were located at that time. That attack hit Akhmetov hard, as many of his businesses became nearly worthless overnight when Russia began seizing territory. In addition to real estate, Akhmetov owned many gas stations in this area, as well as Shakhtar Donetsk’s home stadium. Shakhtar is a successful soccer team that Akhmetov also owns, which plays home games in other stadiums during the conflict.
As a result of his previous experience, Akhmetov began preparing to provide humanitarian aid before the most recent Russian invasion. He instructed the Akhmetov Foundation to help with evacuations and deliver essentials like food, water and medicine to cities affected by the conflict, especially Mariupol. The Russian attacks in that city left 1,200 dead, many of which were caused by an air strike on a maternity hospital in early March.
Akhmetov sent a statement to Forbes Ukraine following that event, in which he expressed his disbelief that Mariupol has been completely blockaded. The city had about a half million people before the invasion, although less than 100,000 remained. Conditions have become extremely dire for those still living there, many of whom are using Azovstal’s underground facilities as bunkers. Akhmetov added, “It is impossible to hear or talk about it without tears in your eyes that people melt snow and drink meltwater to stay alive. That a 6-year-old girl died of dehydration under rubble at the center of Europe.”
Akhmetov was the richest person in Ukraine before the war, with an estimated worth of nearly $14 billion. However, that figure dropped below $6 billion within the first two weeks of the war, and has continued to decrease since then. The Forbes listing from June reported his net worth at $4.5 billion, but the volatile situation in Ukraine makes the accuracy of this estimate difficult to determine.
Akhmetov discussed his vision of a complete victory for Ukraine with Forbes Ukraine. He stated that it would require a “complete ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from Ukraine and a full restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including Donbass and Crimea.” Russia disputes the ownership of these regions, which it has occupied since 2014. However, most countries still recognize them as part of Ukraine.
Akhmetov has also commented on his plans for Ukraine’s recovery, which he is confident will occur. He stated in March that he is committed to investing all his resources towards making Ukraine prosperous once again.