Russia has looted USD 600 million worth of Ukrainian steel!
"After Russia stole Ukrainian wheat, now they looted $600 million worth of Ukrainian steel from factories and ports in Ukraine."Source: Jutarnji list
BBC broadcast claims by the head of Metinvest, the largest steel plant in Ukraine.
Metinvest is a mega-company that owns the Azovstal, already known as the last stronghold of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians in Mariupol. Chief executive Yuri Ryzhenkov claims that the steel is being transferred to Russia to be resold, some of which was intended for customers in the UK.
Metinvest's headquarters are in Mariupol, and the Azovstal plant, together with its sister plant Ilyich, accounts for 40 percent of total Ukrainian steel production.
Thousands of tons of steel were paid for by European buyers, including some in the United Kingdom. They received information about this from informants within Metinvest who informed them that steel from Mariupol was first transferred to Russia, and then sold on the local market or to countries in Africa and Asia.
"This is nothing but a robbery. They're not only stealing our products since some of those products already belong to European customers. So basically, they're not just stealing from us, they're also stealing from the Europeans." Ryzhenkov also told the BBC that with his associates he is trying to document as many facts as possible about the thefts, and at the same time, they are preparing to take future legal actions.
"Eventually, the Russians will face not only international courts but also criminal courts. And we will go after them with everything we have," he said.
The BBC approached Russia's Ministry of Defense for comment, but with no response to the allegations until now. Professor Marko Milanovic, an international law expert at Reading University, says there are a number of options for bringing a case, but the chances of success are less certain.
"Whatever legal option Metinvest chooses, it's a very difficult process, although looting is unfortunately quite common in conflicts, suing a looting party and getting compensation is extremely rare," he told the BBC. "However, they may want symbolic satisfaction, which is labeling Russia as a lawbreaker, which would be a big deal."
A month ago, the BBC's Reality Check team started tracking where Russia was taking grain stolen from Ukraine, following mounting evidence that Russian forces in the occupied territories are stealing produce from local farmers and shipping it out of the country. Like many Ukrainian companies, Metinvest has become part military, part humanitarian organization, and Yuri Ryzhenkov believes that for the Ukrainian war effort, their steelworks have become as important as soldiers, reports Jutarnji list.
"Our company produces bulletproof vests, we supply steel to underground bunkers, which are also used for armored vehicles. That's why the people who work in the ironworks are as important to Ukraine's victory as the fighters on the front line," he said.
Although the Azovstal factory was almost destroyed, he said that he was "convinced that the day will come when it will again be Ukrainian."
"I'm positive. The way I see it, Russia has already lost this war and it's only a matter of time before they realize it. The Russians don't need Mariupol, they don't need Donbas. They need either the whole of Ukraine or nothing, which means that even if they stop now, Ukraine will take it back. It's just a matter of time," he added.
But wouldn't that require a major military offensive by stretched Ukrainian forces?
"Was there a big offensive when Germany reunited with East Germany? There are several ways that Ukraine can bring it back. One way is a big military offensive, the other way is that Russia will just have to get out because of some internal things in Russia. Or finally, there is a third way which at some point in history will simply reunite."