Billionaire Rinat Akhmetov Pledges To Make Ukraine’s Donbass Arena a Happy Place ‘Once Again’

Rinat Akhmetov, the head of Ukraine-based mining corporation Metinvest, has recently initiated legal actions against Russia, seeking compensation for assets seized in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The assets fall under his holding company, System Capital Management Group, and span various sectors including metals, mining, sports, energy, and real estate. Notable among them are the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol and the Donbass Arena.

Akhmetov is the owner of Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk professional soccer team and he stated that he’s adamant that the team’s arena will “once again be a place for happy meetings and excitement.”

The Legal Cases

Rinat Akhmetov has filed two cases against Russia. In April, he charged that Russia violated a long-standing treaty: the Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the Encouragement and Mutual Protection of Investments.

The claim seeks damages dating as far back as 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine to seize the Crimea region.

“On 24 February 2022, the Russian army began a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. Yet, for me, as for many other Ukrainians, the war began in 2014. It was then that Russia invaded our country, started seizing our vital factories and plants, and destroying our infrastructure,” said Akhmetov.

“My position has not changed: We will seek justice using all available legal means with every possible agency and court, because Russia’s crimes against Ukraine and Ukrainians that have been committed since 2014 must be punished. Therefore, I am filing a claim for full compensation from the aggressor country for all the losses we have suffered since 2014 in the illegally occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Justice must be restored, and the aggressor must be held accountable both financially and in the criminal proceedings.”

He added that his plans are to reinvest all possible awarded compensation from the claim to “rebuild and open new factories and plants, create jobs, and contribute to the growth of the Ukrainian economy.”

In a separate case, Akhmetov has charged Russia with violations of property rights. That lawsuit was filed at the European Court of Human Rights in 2022.

Rinat Akhmetov and the Donbass Arena

Rinat Akhmetov became the club president of Shakhtar Donetsk in 1996. Since then, the club has had several significant successes, including winning the Ukrainian Cup three times, appearing in the UEFA Champions League for the first time, and qualifying for the UEFA Cup. Shakhtar Donetsk has been a prominent factor in Ukrainian soccer and has gained international recognition.

The Donbass Arena, a state-of-the-art stadium, was opened in 2009 at a construction cost of around $400 million. It was one of the venues that helped host the 2012 European Championship. The arena is a significant asset under Akhmetov’s SCM Group and became a symbol of the club’s ambition and success.

However, the stadium was damaged and seized when Russia invaded in 2014. Shakhtar has been exiled from Donbas since 2014 due to the war with pro-Russian forces.

In January 2023, Shakhtar Donetsk announced that Mykhailo Mudryk, its star player, would be transferred to Premier League club Chelsea for a record $76 million. One day after the transfer Akhmetov announced he would donate $25 million of those funds to support families affected by violence in Mariupol.

“The money will be used to cover different needs — from providing medical and prosthetic treatment and psychological support to meeting specific requests,” he said at the time.

He also noted plans to play a friendly match with Chelsea and lamented how the war has affected a beloved national sports culture.

“This means that players like Mudryk should be invited to our club, to our Ukrainian championship, and we should win European trophies with such players, rather than root for them, even when they play in the world’s top clubs. Unfortunately, it is impossible now, as Ukraine is fighting the horrendous and unjust war waged against us by the Russian Federation. But I am confident that we will win.”

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