Russia looting steel from Europeans, says Metinvest boss

Russia has been accused of looting $600m worth of steel from plants and ports in Ukraine by the boss of Ukraine's largest steel firm Metinvest, the BBC reports.

The firm owns the Azovstal plant that became the last holdout of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians during the devastation of the city of Mariupol.

Chief executive Yuriy Ryzhenkov said steel was being transferred to Russia and sold on, some of which had been bound for customers in the UK.

The Kremlin has not commented.

Metinvest is headquartered in Mariupol, a centre for trade and manufacturing, which after almost three months of relentless assault, fell to Russia in May.

Mr Ryzhenkov said 300 employees and 200 employees' relatives were killed in the assault on the Azovstal plant, which together with its sister plant Ilyich accounted for 40% of all Ukraine steel production.

Thousands of tonnes of steel had been paid for by European customers, including some in the UK.

He said that public sources and the company's own informants reported the steel was being transferred to Russia and sold in internal markets or to countries in Africa and Asia.

"What they're doing is basically looting. They're stealing not only our products, but also some of those products already belong to the European customers. So basically, they're not only stealing from us, they're stealing from the Europeans as well," Mr Ryzhenkov told the BBC.

He said the company was documenting as much of the theft as possible and was preparing to take future legal action.

"At some point in time, the Russians will be facing not only the international courts, but also the criminal courts. And we will be going after them with anything we have."

The BBC has approached the Russian Ministry of Defence for comment, but it has not responded to the accusations.

Prof Marko Milanovich, an expert on international law at the University of Reading, says there are a number of options to pursue a case, but prospects for success are less certain.

"Whichever legal options Metinvest chooses, it's a very difficult process and whilst looting is unfortunately quite common in conflict, suing the looting state and obtaining compensation is very, very rare indeed," he told the BBC.

"However, they might want symbolic satisfaction more than the money, and labelling Russia as a law breaker would be a big deal."

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