The attention of the world is riveted on the war in Ukraine. Yuriy Ryzhenkov, CEO of Rinat Akhmetov and Vadym Novinsky's Metinvest Group, told the BBC in an interview how the Group's enterprises are operating under these conditions and what they are doing to protect their employees and the residents of the cities where they operate.
– The worst-hit area in Ukraine was the southern city of Mariupol. That’s where that maternity hospital was targeted. That’s where there was supposed to be ceasefire so that civilians could get out. It’s also where a particular company called Metinvest is helping. The CEO is Yuriy Ryzhenkov, who is with us right now. Tell us what Metinvest does.
– Hello. Not such a good morning for our country and for the city of Mariupol. Unfortunately, we are still seeing bombing and shelling of the city and innocent civilians still suffer. What we saw yesterday was just obscene. We had been preparing the city even before it was cut off from supplies. Prepared some food and water in our bomb shelters, which we are now redistributing to the citizens of Mariupol, but unfortunately it tends to run out. For the last six days, we’ve been trying to get into the city. We have the buses ready, we have the drivers ready, we have the lorries with the food and supplies ready to go into the city. As soon as we were told that there was a green corridor into the city, we tried to get in there. But unfortunately, all of those days we were stopped by the military and by fighting from the Russian side.
– Can I ask you, Yuriy, what is it that Metinvest does? Tell our audience around the world, in practical ways.
– The main focus is on the humanitarian aid together with the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation. We are buying food supplies not only in Ukraine but also in the EU. We set up a logistical centre in Poland and now we are delivering all that food to Ukraine. In Zaporizhia, we are forming special food kits which we are ready to supply to Mariupol and to the other cities, wherever they are needed.
– Have you got buildings and staff and manufacturing sites in Mariupol?
– Well, half of the company was actually in Mariupol. Two of the largest mills in the country are part of Metinvest Group. We’ve been employing about 40,000 people in Mariupol. We are still employing 40,000 people in Mariupol. Unfortunately, they are currently cut off from the rest of the world.
– So, you are still paying them? How are they sheltering? How are they protecting themselves?
– Yes. We have the bomb shelters in our facilities, in our mills, which we’ve kept in good order as I said, supplied with water and food. And the shelters have been opened not only for our employees but also for the citizens of Mariupol to be used. And they’ve been using them for the last two weeks. More than 4,000 people literally live in those bomb shelters in our facilities these days.
– Now, the Russians have been trying to take Mariupol for days. Why do you think they haven’t succeeded thus far?
– I think that, first of all, Mariupol today is not the same Mariupol we saw in 2014. People saw in 2014 what happens when Russians come and start to rule. And they don’t want that. So, they are resisting the Russians in every possible way. And, of course, we have Ukrainian armed forces and Ukrainian national guard. They are very brave and determined to protect Mariupol.
– Thank you very much for talking to us. Thank you for your time. That’s the CEO of Metinvest. Thank you.