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Rinat Akhmetov made headlines in 2022 when his Azovstal metallurgy plant, alongside its sister site, Ilyich, became the focus of the world’s media as the final bastion of Ukraine’s defensive forces in the port city of Mariupol.  Over the course of several weeks, courageous Ukrainian fighters defended Azovstal in a bid to stave off the attempted capture of Mariupol by invading Russian forces. Despite the Ukrainians’ valiant efforts, Russia eventually captured the metropolis, along with the Azovstal and Ilyich plants, in mid-May.

Though it was a considerable blow to owner Metinvest Group, which is owned by Akhmetov, the destruction of the plants and the subsequent capture of Mariupol served only to create more of an appetite among Akhmetov and Ukraine’s billionaires to fight back harder. And fight back they have — and they may be bringing the dawn of a new democratic era for Ukraine.

“The goal is to build a new, strong, and European Ukraine, a member of the [European Union], with strong institutions, the rule of law, clear anti-corruption rules, a democratic political system, and fair treatment of citizens,” Akhmetov told The Washington Post.

How Rinat Akhmetov Is Leading by Example

Due to Akhmetov’s wealth, under new Ukraine laws he’s considered a person with “excessive political and economic influence.” As such, he’s divested himself of his media assets, will distance himself from politics, and will end any involvement he has with Ukrainian political parties.

In July 2022, he transferred his media assets under Media Group Ukraine to the government for the good of his beloved Ukrainian homeland. Leading by example, Akhmetov is hopeful that the new laws will help improve democratic processes in Ukraine and lead to real, positive reform.

In a press release published last year, Akhmetov said, “During the course of more than 20 years, beginning in 2000, we and the journalists together have built a media holding that is based on the principles of freedom of speech, truth, and professionalism.” Natalya Yemchenko, director of communications for Rinat Akhmetov’s holding company, System Capital Management Group, said, “For us, the law is above all.”

And Akhmetov is ready to lead, supporting Ukraine joining the E.U. “Competition in economy means the market economy,” he said. “Competition in politics means democracy … concentration of power leads to authoritarianism and economic decline.”

Through the Steel Front initiative piloted by Rinat Akhmetov’s Metinvest Group, the steel and metallurgical enterprise has helped equip Ukrainian defenders with all the munitions and equipment that they need to fight back and win the war.

Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Akhmetov, the country’s richest man, has mobilized his industrial empire to help the population and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Washington Post reports that he has donated more than $100 million in humanitarian and military aid — the largest private individual donor to the war effort.

Through his humanitarian work, Akhmetov is working with the Ukrainian government to ensure that aid reaches those in need.

Akhmetov has seen his net worth drop significantly since February 2022: from around $7.6 billion to less than $4.3 billion, according to Forbes. In 2012, before Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in Ukraine’s east, locations where Akhmetov also had numerous assets, the magazine estimated his wealth at $16 billion.