Yuriy Ryzhenkov: Providing assistance is the decision made by owners, not business
During the interview to 'Segodnya' Yuriy Ryzhenkov told about assistance to Donbas residents in the very beginning of military actions, about incredible commitment of volunteers during the difficult time for the country and new initiatives of Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center.
Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center was established two years ago to provide maximum assistance to civilian population of Donetsk and Luhansk regions affected by the armed conflict. The Center united the resources of all SCM Group businesses, and Metinvest Group performed as a driving force.
‒ Tell us, how did the story of Metinvest's assistance to Donbas civilians start?
‒ We started helping Donbas residents even before the Humanitarian Center was established ‒ in May 2014. Back then the employees of Mariupol iron and steel enterprises went to clear the debris of partially burned city hall and destroyed building of police department, they were also helping local residents affected by antiterrorist operation.
In June and July, when military actions commenced near Avdiivka, Donetsk, Yenakiieve and Khartsyzk, we started taking children of our employees to recreation centres on the coast of Azov Sea. Then Metinvest arranged food supplies to these towns from Zaporizhia. We were trying to help people as much as we could. Our efforts were mainly aimed at supporting our employees and their families. But knowing that way more people among civilians need help, our main Shareholder decided to provide consistent humanitarian aid on a permanent basis.
Through joint efforts of Metinvest and Humanitarian Center the first aid centre was opened in Mariupol ‒ it was logistics hub. It appeared in Mariupol, because the employees working at our enterprises in this town, MMKI and Azovstal, had a great willing to help their compatriots. By efforts of volunteers ‒ our employees and other Mariupol residents ‒ humanitarian packages are still being packed up, loaded in trucks and delivered to people in need.
Today the points distributing humanitarian aid are operating in all the towns of our presence, both in the ATO area and the "grey zone". In the peak time up to 600 Metinvest employees were involved in this activity, today there are about 150 people doing it.
‒ Do you think that business should help people during the wartime? Shall it act consolidated with charity organizations? How should it be manifested?
‒ First of all, this is the position of our Shareholder. Any charity is the decision of owners, not business. The goal of business is to make profit, and only the Shareholder is entitled to decide how to use it. Rinat Akhmetov made this decision and established the Humanitarian Center, allocated the required resources, both human and financial. He was the one who decided to channel the funds to help people, especially pensioners, elderly people and children.
The primary goal of the Humanitarian Center, established at his initiative, was evacuation of people from the conflict zone and temporary accommodation of those affected by hostilities. We supported the Humanitarian Center's operation by four major directions: delivery and issuance of survival kits for adults and children, targeted assistance, psychological support and assistance with medications. The number of people, actually provided with assistance by Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center since the beginning of its operation, has already exceeded one million people.
‒ After two years since the outbreak of the armed conflict have you managed to build a special system? Has it got easier to work in this direction? What is the major focus this year?
‒ Earlier the involvement of business in assistance arrangement was high. As of today, the management structure and support services of the Humanitarian Center are efficient enough to organize all the processes. And we help to address some administrative issues. Certainly, the involvement of our volunteers, who take part in the Center's work locally, is also very important. We must help our friends, people living in non-government-controlled areas, regardless of whether they are our employees or not. This is our position and the Humanitarian Center's position. And it resonates with people, changes their attitude.
Metinvest supports new initiatives of the Humanitarian Center. We joined its program called "Peaceful Summer for Donbas Children". Even during its most difficult time the Company never stopped taking care of health improvement of our employees and their children: we believe it to be our duty as an employer. Today we are happy that we can help with health improvement of other children from the ATO area.
In 2016 they started a new project called "Mentoring". The main goal of the project is to help orphans to get prepared to an independent life after they leave the orphanage. We have very kind and helpful people in Metinvest. I am sure they will be responsive and after some trainings they will be able to support children and help them find their path in life.
‒ During the conflict period hundreds of Metinvest employees became volunteers. They help to pack up food baskets, distribute them at the issuing points… Can we say that you have two professional holidays now ‒ Metallurgist's Day and Volunteer's Day?
‒ These holidays have a different mood. Metallurgist's Day is a traditional annual holiday, which unites all towns of our presence and all enterprises in a single burst of joy. And Volunteer's Day has a very sad background for us. This is not even a holiday, it is more of an honouring, an opportunity to thank our volunteers for their dedication. This is the day when we are sad and at the same time proud of our employees, who are the active participants of the Humanitarian Center's initiatives. For the second year in a row we reward our volunteers, and this year we congratulated them on Metallurgist's Day.
‒ The Humanitarian Center summarizes the results of its two-year operation. What would you like to wish for people working there?
‒ I wish the Humanitarian Center to work less in emergency mode and to have more long-term and strategic programs, aimed at development of the regions and the country. And I would like to wish good luck to the volunteers. They are in a difficult time and challenging situation now, so some good luck won't hurt. And if they have luck, they will get the rest.