Rinat Akhmetov, still the richest businessman in Ukraine according to Forbes, intends to seek compensation for the loss of assets in the territories that have come under Russian control. According to a press release, the businessman considers dozens of enterprises in the mining, metallurgical and energy sectors, including Enakievsky Metallurgical Plant, DTEK Rovenkianthracite and DTEK Sverdlovanthracite, as well as the Kirsha training base and the Donbass stadium, to be illegally alienated Arena”, in the construction of which more than 400 million dollars were invested.
The total amount of the claim is not called, but at least the order of numbers can be estimated. In 2014, Akhmetov’s fortune was estimated at $12 billion, and after the formation of the DPR and LPR, it fell to $2 billion. The fall over the past year is also noticeable – from 7 billion in 2021 to 4 billion last year and with a rebound to 5 billion at the latest estimate. Thus, we can talk about billions of dollars.
The logic of the claims is analyzed by Vladimir Gladyshev, Managing Partner of Gladyshev & Partners:
“The lawsuit was filed under a bilateral investment protection agreement between Russia and Ukraine. As part of this agreement, lawsuits have already been filed against Russia, in particular for compensation for the expropriation of assets in Crimea. More than ten lawsuits were filed, and some of them were satisfied. The Russian Federation did not participate in these lawsuits for the most part. At the last stage, there were attempts to make some statements. A small part of the awards of the arbitral tribunals has been published, but the majority has not yet been published. According to the agreement: if, for example, foreign investors have invested in the territory of the Russian Federation and the Russian Federation expropriates these investments or in any other way harms them, Russia must fully compensate for the damage caused. In this case, formally at the time in question, in 2015-2019, these regions were not yet part of the Russian Federation. The hope is that in this case the Russian Federation will also be out of the process and they will easily make this decision, justify it politically, and then they will replenish it from the arrested assets of the Russian Federation abroad.”
One of the disputed points of the lawsuit is the question of the choice of the defendant. Akhmetov’s structures make claims against Russia, although at the time of the loss of control over many of his enterprises they were located in the DPR and LPR, which Moscow recognized only at the beginning of last year. According to the plaintiff, by annexing the territories, Russia, as it were, inherited the obligations of the republics, including in relation to the former assets of Akhmetov. The businessman’s lawyers will try to convince the arbitration that, although the West does not recognize the annexation of Donbass and other regions, Russia de facto controls them, and therefore must pay.
The head of the News Front portal Konstantin Knyrik talks about the status and condition of the objects:
“Even during the period of independence of the DPR, facilities of this kind were nationalized. A regulatory framework was developed for their transfer to external management. As far as I understand, the vast majority of such facilities were transferred to external management on the principle of transfer to businessmen with experience in the real sector regarding a particular enterprise. As for the Donbass Arena, as far as I know, this property is state-owned and, as a rule, it does not function as a football arena due to the fact that shells of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have, unfortunately, been fired into the structure several times. There are questions about safety, to the possibility of operation for its intended purpose. Now there are periodically free tours, but nothing more.”
Akhmetov’s loss of control over assets in the Donbass took place in two main stages. In 2017, the still unrecognized DPR and LPR jointly announced the introduction of “external control” at Ukrainian enterprises, explaining this by a blockade by Ukraine. The Kremlin was sympathetic to the decision, saying that companies “need to survive.” After the annexation of the republics to Russia, the head of the DPR, Denis Pushilin, said that “all this is the property of the state” and nothing else belongs to the Ukrainian owners, namely Rinat Akhmetov.
Moscow has not yet responded to reports of Akhmetov’s new lawsuit. Last year, when the businessman filed a claim for compensation for Azovstal and a number of other enterprises with the ECHR, the Kremlin reminded that Russia had left the jurisdiction of the court. Ukraine over the past year also began the nationalization of a number of enterprises owned by Russian companies. In particular, the subsidiaries of Sberbank, VEB.RF and Alfa-Bank fell under the procedure.