Yuriy Ryzhenkov on Suing Russia and Forging New Italian Partnerships
Rinat Akhmetov’s metallurgical enterprise Metinvest Group, together with expert consultants from the European Court of Human Rights, is assessing the damage that’s been caused to its steelmaking assets as a result of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. In response, the company is preparing a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the country.
Metinvest Group CEO Yuriy Ryzhenkov spoke out about the situation in a recent interview with the Italian publication Il Secolo XIX.
Although the majority of Metinvest’s assets and operations have been affected in one way or another by the ongoing war, Mariupol is where the company suffered some of its most considerable losses.
The port city of Mariupol, which sits on the Sea of Azov, is home to two major steelworks: Azovstal and Illych. In May 2022, following a monthslong siege, Mariupol was captured by invading Russian forces. Rinat Akhmetov’s Metinvest Group lost both Azovstal and Ilyich, the former being the company’s main production site not only in Ukraine, but also in Europe.
When asked about the estimated total losses Metinvest has suffered due to the attacks on Azovstal, Ryzhenkov stated that it will amount to billions. “It will be billions … if we take Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol alone, we can talk about tens of billions of euros in losses. In fact, we are currently assessing the damage with the European Court of Human Rights and preparing a lawsuit against Russia.”
Rinat Akhmetov, the owner of Metinvest Group, first confirmed that the company is seeking legal action against Russia last year. “Evil cannot go unpunished. Russia’s crimes against Ukraine and our people are egregious, and those guilty of them must be held liable,” he said in a press release from System Capital Management Group, the parent company of Metinvest.
Plans for New Partnerships in Italy
Metinvest Group has operations not only in Ukraine, but throughout Europe and farther afield, too. This includes plants in the northeast of Italy and a representative office in Genoa, which have continued to operate as usual since the outbreak of war last year.
“Italy remains our key market. Historically, this country is our second market after Ukraine. Therefore, we are always interested in increasing our presence in Italy,” said Ryzhenkov.
In February 2022, according to Metinvest’s CEO, the company discussed new sea routes from Mariupol with Fratelli Cosulich, coil production with the Marcegaglia group, and new projects for the Mariupol plant with another Italian group. But of course, everything changed with the invasion of Ukraine.
Stressing the importance of thinking about the future, Ryzhenkov said they must be prepared for what comes next. “Your Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has said that Italian companies will be the main actors in the recovery, and we are ready to be their partners. I am confident that this will be the case.”
Ryzhenkov added that following a year of the war, Rinat Akhmetov’s Metinvest Group is focusing on stabilizing the situation with its foreign assets, especially in Italy. “We are rebuilding the logistics and supply chain of our two plants in Italy and the U.K., which are now operating normally.”
This year, Metinvest found new sources of critical supplies such as coal, which is now being supplied by mines in the United States. The situation is complicated in Ukraine, especially in terms of logistics, but steel production is currently at 60% to 65%, according to Ryzhenkov, and mining and processing plants are 25% to 40% full.
A Charity Event in Italy
Ryzhenkov recently hosted an official charity event in Milan, in which 300,000 euros (about $329,080) were raised to help those affected by the war in Ukraine. The affair occurred as part of Metinvest Group’s wider Saving Lives humanitarian aid initiative, which works in coordination with the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation.
The gathering brought together 185 representatives of the business community from Italy, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Ukraine in Milan. It included a panel discussion on the future of Ukraine and Italy’s contribution to the country’s recovery.
The money was raised by auctioning rare artifacts from both peacetime and wartime donated by Metinvest Group, Ukrainian cultural figures, and various sports stars. Thirteen lots were sold, including: a copy of the mural from Mariupol — called “Milana” — on Azovstal steel; a painting by Dasha Kandinsky; a military flag from Snake Island, where an early show of Ukrainian defiance in the face of Russian attacks was captured on video and went viral; workwear from an Azovstal bomb shelter signed by Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; and football accessories from Shakhtar Donetsk FC.