Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov recently announced that he would sue Russia for losses incurred from 2014 to 2017 — years before the advent of the current war. The exact amount he’s seeking has not been publicly shared, though the request is likely to reach well into the billions.
The founder of System Capital Management has long been critical of the continued infiltration of Russian-backed separatists in his homeland. Since the start of the current invasion, he’s used his assets to assist the military and boost the morale of his fellow citizens. This latest maneuver is part of a long line of decisions designed to hold Russia accountable for what it has done.
“Russia must be punished for its crimes against Ukraine and Ukrainians, which have been happening since 2014,” Akhmetov explained. “Therefore, I am filing a claim for full compensation from the aggressor country for all the losses we have suffered since 2014 in the illegally occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.” Akhmetov’s official statement emphasizes how Russia has been ramping up this war for eight years. The tensions between the two countries reached a head in the winter of 2022, but for Rinat Akhmetov, the war started long before.
He could see how Russian-funded terrorism groups — he called out the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic — were creating chaos and discord in contested areas of the country. The Donbass Arena in Donetsk, one of Akhmetov’s holdings, was originally overrun in 2014 and has sustained heavy shelling since then. Once home to FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukrainian Premier League, the stadium is now largely abandoned. It was originally built at a cost of $400 million, and Akhmetov seeks financial reimbursement for his losses in this latest suit.
Donbas is just one example of many that Akhmetov pointed out happened during that three-year period. In addition to the stadium, his mining and metallurgical companies have suffered financial losses. He’s also lost educational and training facilities, most notably the Kirsha Training Centre, which was destroyed by shelling in 2014. This facility, home to medical offices and the gym for Shakhtar Donetsk, was a blow not just for the billionaire but also for athletes and football fans.
Rinat Akhmetov’s goal is to help people with the money he recoups from Russia. “I am going to invest the awarded compensation to rebuild and open new factories and plants, create jobs, and contribute to the growth of the Ukrainian economy.”
This plan is aligned with Akhmetov’s personal beliefs that you can change the course of entire communities when you invest in them. Before the war began, Akhmetov had been initiating plans to open a free university in Mariupol, where anyone could learn a trade on the path to a better life. Right after the invasion in 2022, he galvanized his charitable foundation so his volunteers and staff could pitch in wherever they could.
Akhmetov took every possible measure to deliver aid, such as food and medical supplies, to the front lines. He manufactured and shipped portable shelters that could withstand the heavy shelling from Russia’s military. He had his steel plant make steel bracelets that could be sold, with profits from the sales donated to aid the soldiers. He sued Russia in 2022 for human rights violations and illegal interference in his business affairs.
Akhmetov’s approach to helping his compatriots has shifted over the years. He wants to help individuals — but more than that, he wants to address the systemic problems underlying the suffering. Strengthening the economy by opening new plants and factories doesn’t just give employees a steady paycheck, it lifts entire families and communities. The ripple effects of a strong job market can fix so much more than a person’s financial situation. Whatever the outcome of this latest maneuver, Akhmetov will continue to be proactive in the fight for independence from Russia.