In July 2005, Rinat Akhmetov established a charitable foundation that would seek to affect real change in Ukraine by eradicating the great social injustices that were an all-too-common theme in a country that was once part of the Soviet Union.
By focusing on a consistent social development strategy that would target the roots of social problems, rather than the typical charity approach of acts of goodwill carried out in isolation, Akhmetov hoped to address systemic social problems in a range of priority areas including education, parenting, healthcare, and culture.
Who is Rinat Akhmetov?
Rinat Akhmetov is a Ukrainian billionaire oligarch who as well as operating his namesake foundation runs System Capital Management (SCM), a financial holding company, and owns Shakhtar Donetsk, a Ukrainian professional football club. He is also a former member of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada (parliament).
Akhmetov was born in Donetsk to a working-class family and went on to build substantial wealth after the fall of communism in Ukraine. He has previously stated that his wealth was obtained by “making risky business investments” in the first few years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, commenting in 2010 that “I have earned my first million by trading coal and coke, and spent the money on assets that no one wanted to buy. It was a risk, but it was worth it”.
Akhmetov is involved with several charities that support Ukrainian citizens, and he has made several charitable donations over the years. Some of Akhmetov’s most notable charitable donations include:
- October 2007: $900,000 donated to families of victims of a gas explosion that tore through an apartment complex in Dnipropetrovsk.
- April 2011: $1 million allocated to support the “Shelter Project” for the construction of a new safe confinement to cover Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4.
- April 2011: $1 million donated to the victims of the 2011 earthquake in Japan. “This is a terrible tragedy, and its scope is really international,” said Akhmetov.
- September 2014: During the War in Donbas, Akhmetov and his staff provided more than 12 million food packages and evacuated over 39,000 people from the conflict zone.
- March 2020: Allocated UAH 300 million to help the fight against coronavirus and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While these are all impressive, it is Akhmetov’s namesake foundation that is perhaps the most impressive and notable charitable achievement of all.
History of the Foundation
Akhmetov established the Foundation for Development of Ukraine (also known as the “Rinat Akhmetov Foundation”) on 15 July 2005.
According to the foundation, the purpose of creating it was to take part in addressing the causes of social problems of the Ukrainian society and to move from acts of goodwill to a consistent strategy of social development. The foundation is entirely independent; there are no populist motives in decision making, and its activities are governed through professional expertise and coordination with a focus on achieving its stated objectives.
Mission: “Work for people by eliminating pressing social problems by adopting the best experience gained in Ukraine and abroad; by creating unique system decisions; by achieving the best results with each of our projects and activities.”
Principles: “The highest standards of transparency of projects and activities of the Fund at all stages: from the decision-making to summing-up.”
Achievements & Milestones
The Foundation has been widely recognised over the years for its charitable mission which is one of the largest personal initiatives in the entire country. It has also been credited with saving more than one million civilians in the East of Ukraine since 2014 who have been caught in the ongoing conflict.
Some of the Foundation’s most notable achievements include:
Stopping TB: “Stop TB in Ukraine” was launched by the Foundation to stop the TB epidemic by improving diagnostics and providing access to high-quality diagnostic services and treatment. The programme has been credited with helping decrease the Donetsk TB incidence rate by 22% when compared to 2008, and the death rate by 41%.
Fighting Cancer: “Cancer Can Be Cured” is Ukraine’s first large-scale national project established to help diagnose and treat cancer in line with global standards. To date, the programme has helped over 100,000 people with cancer diagnoses and treatments and has provided critical equipment to key partner hospitals.
Orphans: “No to Orphancy!” was an initiative by the Foundation that has been designed to address strategically important issues for Ukrainian society during peacetime. Its outcome was that 7,731 orphaned children from across Ukraine were rehomed with new families.
Targeted Assistance: The Foundation runs an initiative that supports Ukrainians who have found themselves in difficult life situations by providing emergency treatment and long-term rehabilitation. To date, it has helped over 20,000 people across Ukraine.
The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation Humanitarian Center
The largest of the Foundation’s many programmes is the Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center, which has been helping the most vulnerable members of the population of Donetsk and Luhansk regions for more than six years.
It is the biggest humanitarian mission in Ukraine and operates in Donbass. The Center was established in August 2014 to aid the civilian population of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions who have been affected by the War in Donbass. The Humanitarian Center brings together all the resources of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, SCM Group, and Shakhtar Football Club.
Up until February 2017, the Humanitarian Center worked across both sides of the conflict region. However, authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic have prohibited the Center from operating in the territory under their control since this time. While the Center initially continued to operate in government-controlled areas and the so-called “grey zone”, it was ultimately forced to suspend operations in 2017 when rebels blocked access to warehouses.
As of March 2017, it is estimated that the Center issued more than 12 million food packages to inhabitants of Donbas and helped to save over 1 million lives via the “Arena of Mercy”, the Shakhtar FC arena which has been repurposed for use by the Humanitarian Center.
The Center also has a strong healthcare focus. There are six main healthcare areas in which it operates: targeted medical assistance, medical kits, cardiac care, medicines for children, rehabilitation of injured children, birth kits. Psychological support is also provided, and the Center has trained over 250 psychologists in war trauma. In 2014-2015 alone, support was provided to 49,000 children and 6,000 adults.
The work of the Humanitarian Center has been widely recognised not only in Ukraine but also internationally.
“The charity foundation has been helping people from the beginning of the conflict in Donbas for so many years. In addition, it exchanges information with other international organizations. It is in our interests because we want people to get the help they really need. What the Foundation does for residents of Donbas is invaluable”, said Ivane Bochorishvili, Deputy Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ukraine.
Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
More recently, the Foundation has been focusing its efforts on helping fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine after it stepped up at the request of the Ukrainian president, who met with Ukrainian business leaders in early 2020.
After meeting with the president, it was announced that the Foundation had been tasked with taking care of Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts, and the city of Kryvyi Rih. In an interview, however, Akhmetov was quick to make clear that the Foundation would be providing aid to the entire country in areas because of SCM’s wide reaching operations. “Our duty is to help every city and every region, to help Kyiv and the whole country. SCM businesses have been always providing help and we are certainly not going to stand on the sidelines now,” Akhmetov said in a press release, adding that no country in the world was prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude.
With an initial allocation of UAH 300 million, the Foundation was one of the first in the country to respond to the then epidemic, which later became a pandemic. This money was used to purchase critical equipment, including 200 ventilators which were immediately donated to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, personal protective equipment, and over 300,000 rapid COVID-19 testing kits. “We buy what is required by a specific region – we work in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health and regional anti-crisis centres, which are led by “governors” and mayors.”
More recently, with Ukraine seemingly over its second wave of the pandemic, the Foundation has been helping doctors gain new knowledge to fight COVID-19. Working with the Ministry of Health and the Association of Anaesthesiologists of Ukraine, three online conferences have been held for doctors who are on the frontline fighting the virus. To date, almost 8,000 healthcare professionals from all over Ukraine have attended.
“Self-education of doctors raises the survival rate of every patient of any category. The situation with the coronavirus is like a war for us. And we must win this war,” said Dr Bohdan Melnyk, the head of the first infectious diseases department of Kyiv Municipal Hospital No. 17.
Other medical experts, including the President of the Association of Anaesthesiologists of Ukraine, have expressed their support of the Foundation’s educational efforts, commenting that the exchange of experiences is of particular importance to doctors in the fight against the pandemic.
The online conferences are a part of the Foundation’s wider project called “Fighting COVID-19 in Ukraine”. Under this project, public hub hospitals in all regions have received a total of 155 oxygen concentrators, 337,000 rapid COVID-19 tests, and more than 200,000 pieces of personal protective equipment. Access to stationary and mobile oxygen sources was also provided for 633 hospital beds across the regions. A key element of the Foundation’s COVID-19 assistance was the delivery of 200 lung ventilators, which is the largest supply of such equipment in Ukraine since the pandemic began.
When asked about what he expected in return from authorities and Ukrainian officials for his assistance in helping fight the pandemic, Akhmetov stressed that he expected nothing.
“Neither my business, much less me personally, expect anything from the authorities. We need nothing more than a level playing field and fair competition. I am sure that the government and the business share the same goal – a strong and successful Ukraine and happy and healthy Ukrainians,” once again strengthening his image as a philanthropist first, businessman second.