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Interview 3/15/2022 Read 6 min

Yuriy Ryzhenkov CEO Metinvest for CNN

Yuri Ryzhenkov, CEO Metinvest Group,  told CNN about the company's work during the war, support for employees and residents of the cities of presence.

– Ukraine’s top steel maker says one of its plants was hit by heavy shelling on Sunday. Since the Russian invasion began, thousands of Metinvest workers and their families have been forced to take shelter.

So, look at where they are. The Company has mining and plants in Ukraine, Europe and the US, as well as a global sales network. The CEO is Yuriy Ryzhenkov and he was busy this weekend overseeing a convoy of humanitarian aid headed for the city of Mariupol where they have facilities.

So, first of all, let’s get our priorities, I hope you and your family and your staff, which in a sense is your wider family, I hope they are well, in the sense, that at least they have not been injured. 

– Well, good afternoon. Fortunately, my family is ok, given the circumstances, but I cannot say the same about the staff of our larger company. As you rightly said, Metinvest employed almost 40,000 people in the city of Mariupol, which has been cut off from the rest of Ukraine now for more than two weeks. And being bombarded, basically every thirty minutes, in the last two or three days. People are literally living in the bomb shelters, and they are unable to get out of the city. As you rightly said, we’ve been trying to get the humanitarian aid convoy and also the buses to evacuate as many people in the city as possible, but unfortunately in the last seven days the Russian armed forces were not allowing us to get into the city. 

– And the other resources, the plant facilities, that you have in Ukraine, have you shut them all down now? 

– Our first priority is the safety of our people and the safety of the people around the plants. Our plants operate with hazardous materials, they can emit hazardous materials if they get hit by bombs while they’re operating. So, whenever the fighting comes closer, we idle them. For now, we have idled our plants in - well, obviously the Mariupol plants have been idled some time ago - and then we idled our plant in Zaporizhia. Our plant in Kamianske is still operating. Our mining facilities in Kryvyi Rih are operating at 30% of their capacity. 

– What’s your plan - forgive me if this may sound like a foolish question, when I say sort of “what’s your plan” – but I realise that your plan gets made up according to what’s being bombed and where the Russians are and what happens next. But at some point, if it looks like the invasion is going to succeed, and Russia is going to take over Ukraine, what will you do?

– Well, just as most of Ukrainians or even probably all of Ukrainians, we believe that we can stop that scenario from happening. And the company and the shareholders are united to take every step necessary to prevent such events from happening. At the moment we are focusing on humanitarian aid. We established a logistical network together with the Rinat Akhmetov humanitarian fund, and we set up a hub in Poland where we are accumulating all of the necessary humanitarian aid and then it gets shipped to Zaporizhia and then gets distributed to the cities where we operate. We’ve already distributed 80 tonnes of humanitarian aid. In parallel, the company is also involved in helping the territorial forces and the army. So, we are making these anti-tank facilities, we are putting concrete blocks to build the defence facilities, we are buying bulletproof vests and helmets and are importing them to Ukraine to give them to the territorial forces. So, we are trying to help as much as possible to our army, to our country and our people. 

– What’s your intention, in the sense that we’ve seen stories that local mayors are being kidnapped by Russians as in where they get them. Now, obviously as a chief executive of an extremely important part of the Ukrainian economy, you are in personal safety, while I appreciate, sir, that you want to stay with your staff, and want to stay with your people, I appreciate that, sir. But at some point there will come a moment when you will have to decide if it’s more harm than good for you to stay?

– At the moment we are all staying here in Kyiv, side by side with our President, the government, and our fighters. That’s the way it is right now. 

– Sir, we are with you. And we are following closely. And as soon as we can, obviously we’ll keep in touch, and we’ll hear more about what you are doing. I’m grateful that you’ve talked to us tonight. Thank you.

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