The 2023 New Year’s celebrations were a bittersweet occasion for Ukrainians, especially those who came under fire from a new round of Russian blasts in the country’s capital of Kyiv.
Mere minutes after midnight, numerous explosions rocked the capital shortly after a barrage of at least 20 cruise missiles were fired at targets across Ukraine in what one of the country’s officials called “terror on New Year’s Eve.” But even vicious attacks on innocent civilians and critical infrastructure couldn’t stop the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s annual New Year’s initiative for children.
For Auld Lang Syne
Earlier on New Year’s Eve, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainians would never give up until they emerge victorious. “We fight and will continue to fight. For the sake of the main word: victory,” he said in an official New Year’s address. “I want to say to all of you: Ukrainians, you are incredible. See what we have done and what we are doing.”
Amidst all the chaos and destruction, however, was joy, happiness, and a spirit of togetherness. Cries of “Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes,” could be heard echoing across the city as residents took to their balconies in defiance, and the country’s emergency services, military, and volunteers continued to provide critical aid.
The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s New Year Campaign
Providing aid over New Year’s was the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, whose annual Rinat Akhmetov — Children campaign went ahead, as it does every year, to provide assistance to the country’s children. The foundation estimates that its goodwill reached more than 90,000 children across Ukraine.
According to Oksana Ishchuk, project manager for the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, despite the extremely difficult situation in the country, gifts were given to children living in conflict zones, including the Donetsk region, Mariupol, and Zaporizhzhia. Children living in residential institutions, those evacuated from Donetsk, and those living in orphanages and with adoptive families also received gifts from the foundation.
“At the end of December, holiday kits were formed and loaded in the humanitarian hub of Zaporizhzhia, and a special New Year’s bus was used to deliver the gifts. In addition to sweets, it brings master classes, quests, and photo shoots to children,” says a press release published on the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s website. “Rinat Akhmetov — Children is the largest traditional New Year’s promotion in the country. Over 22 years, this initiative has reached more than 1 million children.”
In addition to ensuring that children in the hardest-hit parts of Ukraine don’t go without gifts during the holiday season, the project has provided large-scale and systemic assistance in various formats, such as funding to boarding schools.
“No one has the right to take away the sense of wonder and celebration from children, even during war. Therefore, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation launched a traditional New Year’s campaign,” reads a statement published by Metinvest Group, one of the billionaire’s many business concerns. “Special attention of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation this year will be given to boys and girls who survived the horrors of the war in Mariupol, as well as to children from the front-line settlements of the Donetsk region.”
Metinvest Group is a leading mining and metallurgical enterprise owned by Rinat Akhmetov, with operations in Ukraine, Italy, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It is Ukraine’s largest producer of iron ore and steel. In 2021, the World Steel Association ranked Metinvest 42nd among the top 50 steel companies in the world.
The company was established in 2006 as a subsidiary of Rinat Akhmetov’s SCM Group and today controls more than 50% of the iron ore market, 46% of the baking coal market, and 40% of the metal products market in Ukraine. In 2021, the company topped Forbes’ ranking of Ukraine’s largest private companies.
Rinat Akhmetov and Metinvest Group: Saving Lives
Rinat Akhmetov’s New Year’s campaign isn’t the only war relief effort that he’s overseeing. Through his namesake foundation and Metinvest Group, his metallurgical enterprise, Akhmetov has spearheaded the Saving Lives project, which launched several spinoff humanitarian aid initiatives.
Since the outbreak of an all-out war in Ukraine last year, Akhmetov has allocated billions in Ukrainian hryvnia to support the war effort. From donating hygiene kits, medicines, and protective equipment to soldiers on the front lines to rehousing Metinvest Group employees displaced by the siege of Mariupol, the efforts of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation have made a substantial difference to the lives of many Ukrainian civilians and military personnel.
Metinvest Group has become one of the largest suppliers of critical equipment to the Ukrainian army since February 2022. According to the Ukrainian think tank and consulting company GMK Center, more than 25,000 helmets and 150,000 pieces of body armor have been handed over to soldiers. All this equipment is being produced domestically and Metinvest has established new production plants to keep up with soaring demand.
The Museum of Civilian Voices
One of Rinat Akhmetov’s most notable projects is the Museum of Civilian Voices, an extensive collection of firsthand accounts of Russian aggression directly from victims of the war. The museum’s goal is to collect, organize, and share the stories of Ukrainian civilians with those who want to understand the realities of life under war conditions.
The museum began collecting stories in 2014 during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. During that time, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation launched its Here to Help Humanitarian Centre, which aided millions of Ukrainians by providing access to food, shelter, munitions, and more.
Last year, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation was named a finalist in the 2022 Global Digital PR Awards in the Global Digital PR Campaign of the Year category for the Museum of Civilian Voices project.
More than 55,000 eyewitness accounts have been collected to date, all of which help to illustrate the impact of the war through interviews, photographs, and videos.