Ukraine’s richest man has pledged to help rebuild the city of Mariupol after it has been decimated by Russian shelling.

The billionaire, former people’s deputy of Ukraine, Rinat Akhmetov has seen his business empire crumble under the destruction of fighting in Ukraine but claims to maintain faith in ‘our brave soldiers.’

The 55-year-old, with a net worth of £3.6billion, has recently claimed he plans to return to Mariupol after the war to rebuild the city and the economy for Ukrainian citizens.

He told Reuters: “Mariupol is a global tragedy and a global example of heroism. For me, Mariupol has been and will always be a Ukrainian city.

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Mariupol under the control of Russian military and pro-Russian separatists

“I believe that our brave soldiers will defend the city, though I understand how difficult and hard it is for them.”

He added: “And the war is certainly not the time to be at odds… We will rebuild entire Ukraine.

“I have talked to people in the streets, I met with workers… My ambition is to return to a Ukrainian Mariupol and implement our (new production) plans so that Mariupol-produced steel can compete in global markets as before.”

Akhmetov did not say where exactly he was, but that he had been in Mariupol on February 16 before Putin launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine on February 24.

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A view of damaged building in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol
A view of damaged building in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol following Russian shelling

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The news comes after reports emerged that Russian forces have reportedly dropped a “poisonous substance” from a drone in Mariupol, according to the city’s Azov Battalion.

The substance which is from an “unknown origin” was used to target civilians and is reported to have left people suffering from respiratory failure and neurological problems.

The Azov Regiment in Mariupol reports what could be the Russian use of chemical weapons against the entrenched Ukrainian garrison in the city.

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