Mariupol has long been a key part of Rinat Akhmetov’s life. Situated on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is also a crucial industrial and port city for the nation of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Unsurprisingly, this metropolis became a primary target for the Russian military from the onset of its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
The invading forces certainly didn’t expect the tremendous resistance they encountered in their attempts to take Mariupol. In the end, the Russian army had to bomb this southern Ukraine burg around the clock for more than 80 days before they were able to conquer and occupy it. And they certainly couldn’t have suspected private citizens like Rinat Akhmetov would join the battle — Akhmetov fighting oppression with his checkbook.
One of the wealthiest individuals in Ukraine, Rinat Akhmetov made his initial fortune in the metallurgy industry. Through his giant steelworks conglomerate the Metinvest Group, he owns and operates two massive plants in Mariupol: Azovstal and Ilyich. Both of these facilities became strongholds for the Ukrainian forces as Russian invaders viciously assaulted the city.
Unfortunately, Mariupol ultimately succumbed to these invaders in May 2022. Shortly before the fall, more than 1,000 wounded and exhausted soldiers managed to transform Azovstal, one of the biggest steelworks in Ukraine, into a last bastion of defense. Fortified in Azovstal’s network of underground tunnels, they watched as their provisions slowly dwindled away and the ceaseless Russian bombardment reduced Azovstal to rubble.
Beyond volunteering Azovstal and Ilyich to serve as military strongholds, Rinat Akhmetov has been one of the biggest philanthropic contributors to Ukrainian military funding and humanitarian aid since the beginning of the Russian conflict. The Washington Post reports that he’s donated more than $100 million toward these efforts to date.
Although he’s dedicated to assisting the Armed Forces of Ukraine and aiding Ukrainian citizens nationwide, Akhmetov’s close ties to Mariupol and its people have made that city a particular focus both during active conflict and since Russian occupation. “The destruction and occupation of Mariupol is not the end of its history,” he said. “Mariupol should become a symbol of the revival of our country after the war.”
To better direct recovery initiatives in Mariupol, Rinat Akhmetov and his investment group System Capital Management partnered with the Ukrainian federal government and Mariupol city authorities to launch Mariupol: Reborn in the fall of 2022. Designed in direct response to the Russian occupation, Mariupol: Reborn is dedicated to citywide recovery and revitalization when Mariupol is successfully liberated from its occupying oppressors.
The Mariupol: Reborn project certainly has its work cut out for it. Beyond killing roughly 22,000 Mariupol civilians, Russian forces destroyed roughly half of the city’s residential homes and more than 90% of its municipal infrastructure — from public roads to power plants to water systems. According to the World Bank, it will cost a whopping $411 billion to rebuild Ukraine..
As part of his ongoing efforts to offset this cost, Rinat Akhmetov recently pledged $1.5 million to Mariupol: Reborn. “A year ago, the Russian army was ruining the city of Mariupol day after day, taking and destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of the Mariupol civilians and the courageous defenders of the city,” he said. “A year ago and forever, Mariupol became a symbol of human tragedy, but also a symbol of the invincibility of the Ukrainian soldiers.”
Although Russia continues to occupy Mariupol, Rinat Akhmetov insists that its recovery and reconstruction simply cannot wait. “To begin the transformation of Mariupol today, all of us — Ukrainian and global business, authorities, international institutions — must join forces, attract the best minds and world expertise,” he stated. “I believe in the future of Mariupol, so I decided to allocate $1.5 million to build the Mariupol: Reborn project office, which will work with our partners and engage Mariupol residents to create a common vision for a new Mariupol together.”