Billionaire businessman Rinat Akhmetov is one of the wealthiest people in Ukraine. And with that wealth, he’s been supporting his homeland since the beginning of the war however he can. He may be best known for the Steel Front initiative, a collection of programs that have contributed $1 billion to keep Russian forces at bay.
One of Akhmetov’s latest accomplishments is the sale of 100,000 bracelets to raise more than $2.5 million (94 million hryvnia) for the Ukrainian navy. These bracelets were made with a special batch of Azovstal steel from one of Akhmetov’s ironworks. The steel is from the last production before the Russians officially attacked, making the bracelets a symbol of the Ukrainians’ resistance and endurance.
Bracelets for Hope
Azovstal is one of many business concerns for Akhmetov, but it holds a special place in his heart. Before the war, it manufactured steel for everything from bridges to spaceships. After the start of the Russian attacks, the stronghold in the port city of Mariupol became a target of the enemy. Azovstal was the last place of defense before the Russians fully occupied the city in May 2022.
The 100,000 bracelets were featured on President Volodymyr Zelensky’s fundraising platform, United24, as a collaborative initiative with Metinvest Group. Sova jewelry house designed two types of bracelets — and both series sold out. People from more than 40 countries purchased these baubles, with each wearer standing in direct opposition to the actions and lies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters.
Where the Money Goes
As promised, all the profits from the bracelets have gone to purchase drones for the Ukrainian navy. This is the first fleet of its kind for the military branch, and it promises protection for both the waters and the cities threatened by cruise missiles from Russian ships. The additional equipment will also allow civilian vessels to travel freely, ensuring that grain, an important crop in Ukraine, can be delivered to the world.
Additional Help for Ukraine
Steel can be used for helmets, vehicles, thermal imagers, and body armor, all of which Ukraine’s military has needed throughout the course of the war. In just months, they might use hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of each item — and Akhmetov is there to help. Despite the dangers, he was creative about using his resources to address the crushing demands of soldiers and civilians. He made headlines when he constructed portable steel shelters that could be used for safety.
His Azovstal plant gave Mariupol residents and employees alike somewhere to come together and figure out their next steps.
“The word ‘Azovstal’ changed from the plant’s name into a common one, becoming the symbol of courage and spirit of the entire people,” said Mykhailo Fedorov, deputy prime minister and minister of digital transformation of Ukraine. “We dedicate this project to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the world’s most indomitable people, as well as to every Ukrainian defending his land.”
Though the city would eventually be occupied, Akhmetov celebrated a small victory when 108 prisoners of war from the Azov Regiment were released in the fall.
Rinat Akhmetov also used his eponymous charitable organization to help. He mobilized his Rinat Akhmetov Foundation to deliver everything from food to medication. He’s been vocal about condemning Russia for its invasion. The version of events that Russian leaders have tried to spin to the world has been debunked time and time again, and Putin continues the assault on the country without justification. Patriots like Akhmetov keep morale alive by ensuring that people in the hardest hit areas get the funding and support they need.
Those who choose to show their support, whether it’s by taking in Ukrainian refugees or buying a bracelet, are doing their part to show the country that they’re anything but forgotten. For Akhmetov, the war is a personal matter, and he won’t rest until his homeland can once again live in peace. He intends to do everything in his power to help make that future a reality.
Akhemtov told Reuters, “I trust that we all will rebuild a free, European, democratic, and successful Ukraine after our victory in this war.”