Rinat Akhmetov: I am proud that Azovstal is our stronghold of resistance in Mariupol
Rinat Akhmetov has given an interview to a Swiss newspaper Le Temps. He spoke about the fierce defence of Mariupol, the situation at Azovstal and Ilyich Iron and Steel Works and inevitability of punishment for the crimes committed by Russia.
Last Thursday, president Vladimir Poutine claimed the “liberation” of Mariupol. Russian forces, he told, were in full control of the city, except the Azovstal industry. Is this also your assessment?
Rinat Akhmetov: “No, it isn't. It is absolutely not the case. Mariupol has always been and will be a Ukrainian city. The Ukrainians are defending fiercely each and every inch of Ukrainian soil. I am proud that Azovstal is our stronghold of resistance. I believe that our soldiers will be able to defend the city and Mariupol citizens will be evacuated. I also believe that Russian soldiers will be punished for all the crimes they have committed in Ukraine and Mariupol. Mariupol is a horrifying tragedy and disaster that can't be forgiven.”
In a recent written interview with Reuters, you told that you were in daily contact with managers who run of Azovstal and Illich Iron and Steel Works plants in Mariupol. What is the current situation in both plants?
Rinat Akhmetov: “The Russian Army keeps destroying Mariupol and its two plants, Illich Iron and Steel Works and Azovstal. The plants are under constant shelling and bombing. We have shut down production and will resume it only after our victory.”
How many Metinvest workers are still in the shelters of Azovstal?
Rinat Akhmetov: “This is about people's lives and safety. I can't disclose this information.”
What is the past history and the purpose of these shelters?
Rinat Akhmetov: “The bomb shelters were built at the same time as the plant, in 1933. According to civil and industrial standards, all defence constructions must be in direct proximity to the workplaces of employees.”
How much time the people can still hold in these shelters and what would you recommend to solve this inhumane situation?
Rinat Akhmetov: “Both civilians and our soldiers are in inhuman conditions. Every minute of delay can cost them their lives. We must stop this right now and evacuate people. The only way to do it is to agree on humanitarian corridors with engagement of representatives of the UN and the ICRC. However, all attempts to organise safe passage for Mariupol residents have been disrupted by Russian attacks.”
How much damage has been inflicted to the Azovstal plant?
Rinat Akhmetov: “The pre-war capitalisation of our two plants — Azovstal and Illich Iron and Steel Works — was at least US$10 billion. We are preparing lawsuits to seek compensation from Russia for all losses inflicted on our companies.”
What makes you hope that Mariupol will be back to Ukrainian control, so your company could still work there?
Rinat Akhmetov: “Trust in Ukraine, the heroism and courage of our soldiers, the unity of the Ukrainian nation, and the unprecedented support of our country by the entire free civilised world. I am so grateful to them for this.”
Your companies lost many assets due to the war waged by Russia. Is this the reason that you have clearly chosen the side of president Zelensky?
Rinat Akhmetov: “I made my choice a long time ago. As a native of a Ukrainian city of Donetsk, I has become the biggest private investor in our country. In 2014, I bitterly condemned separatism and said that Donbas can only be happy in a united Ukraine. In 2022, as the war broke out, I called Putin a war criminal. Ukraine is united today like never before, as we've got the will to win. As the President of the country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy demonstrates real dignity in performing his constitutional duty to defend Ukraine. Every Ukrainian, including me, is doing everything in our power to help Ukraine win this war.”
What is the importance of Switzerland for your business?
Rinat Akhmetov: “We are an international company. For us, Switzerland is both the location of our businesses, Metinvest International SA, D.Trading SA, and D.Trading International SA, which have been operating there for over two decades, and a country with the highest corporate culture and business standards that drive us towards continuous development and improvement.”
What is your personal links with Switzerland, we recently reported that your son bought two estates in Geneva. Are you also a frequent visiter in Geneva?
Rinat Akhmetov: “My sons were born in a Ukrainian city of Donetsk and studied in Switzerland. In Switzerland, my eldest son Damir met his future wife Diana. They went to school together. Today their whole family with my grandchildren live in Switzerland. I often visit my family in your beautiful country.”
Do you think Switzerland could do more to assist Ukraine?
Rinat Akhmetov: “Your country’s decision to support Ukraine and impose unprecedented sanctions against Russia deserves great respect. I am grateful to Switzerland and the whole free world for this. We are fighting for our freedom and the freedom of Europe. We have the strength and will to fight. I am confident we will win this war.”