Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on the nation’s wealthiest businessmen to donate funds and equipment to help fight the coronavirus inside the country.
Zelenskiy met with the top business owners at his office in Kyiv on March 16 as the country registered its fifth case of the COVID-19 infection. The president said he told the men the country needed 500 ambulances and as much as 13 billion hryvnya ($490 million) for medicine.
“Business should be socially responsible during times for the government. Ukrainians should feel protected when they go to state hospitals. And I insist that you help now,” Zelenskiy told the businessmen.
Ukraine is one of Europe’s poorest countries with an outdated and underfunded healthcare system that could be quickly overwhelmed if coronavirus cases spike inside the country.
The attendees included among others Rinat Akhmetov, the nation’s wealthiest man, and Igor Kolomoisky, the billionaire who bankrolled Zelenskiy’s campaign.
Akhmetov donated four artificial lung ventilation devices to the health ministry as well as hazmat suits, thermometers and face masks.
Viktor Pinchuk, the billionaire owner of a pipe company, has donated 10 lung ventilation devices to hospitals in Kiev and other regions of Ukraine.
Akhmetov, Kolomoyskiy and Pinchuk made their initial wealth by scooping up Ukrainian state assets on the cheap during the turbulent 1990s in a process that many citizens consider to be unfair.
They are among a group of businessmen, known as oligarchs, that control a massive swath of the Ukrainian economy.
Several other wealthy businessmen are purchasing used ventilation devices in the United States for delivery to Ukraine.
Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of the Alibaba Group, one of China’s largest technology companies, financed the purchase of one million coronavirus testing kits for Ukraine at a cost of $80 million, Zelenskiy said. The testing kits will arrive March 21 from China, he said.