Ukrainian Defense Minister Replaced Amid Anti-Corruption Drive – Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Sunday that he would replace his defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, marking the biggest change to his government since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year.
Zelensky said he would replace Reznikov, who led Ukraine’s successful push for massive military assistance from western allies to resist Russia’s invasion, with Rustem Umerov, who currently runs the country’s agency in charge of privatization.
“Oleksiy Reznikov has gone through more than 550 days of full-scale war. I believe that the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society at large,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation on Sunday evening.
“The move to replace Reznikov comes as Ukrainian forces appear to be on the verge of making bigger gains after a slow start in their counteroffensive against Russian forces in Ukraine’s south-east.”
Move to Strengthen Ukraine’s Defense Ministry
The decision to replace Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, who played a pivotal role in securing military assistance from western allies during Russia’s invasion, is seen as a significant shift.
His tenure lasted over 550 days of full-scale war, and Zelenskyy believes that the ministry requires fresh approaches for interactions with the military and society. This change comes as Ukrainian forces make strides in their counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Zelenskyy emphasized the need for new perspectives and approaches, particularly as the autumn season begins. The defense minister plays a crucial role in procuring weaponry and mobilizing troops, a responsibility that falls under the president’s purview. This change reflects Zelenskyy’s commitment to ensuring the ministry’s efficiency in the ongoing conflict.
Shake-Up Amid Corruption Allegations
The recent shake-up follows allegations of corruption within the defense ministry, including claims of inflated prices for food and military jackets.
While activists accused the ministry of overpaying for army supplies, Zelenskyy made no mention of these allegations during his announcement.
Reznikov’s replacement comes as part of a broader anti-corruption drive in Zelenskyy’s administration, as Ukraine seeks to address graft issues and align with Western institutions such as the EU.
Reports suggest that Oleksiy Reznikov is expected to be appointed as Ukraine’s new ambassador to the UK, where he has already developed strong relations with senior politicians.
This role would further strengthen diplomatic ties between the two nations.
Who is Rustem Umerov?
Rustem Umerov, nominated as the new defense minister by Zelenskyy, is an ethnic Crimean Tatar with deep ties to the Black Sea peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
His background in business and his role as the head of a state agency overseeing asset auctions and government-owned properties make him a suitable candidate for the position.
Umerov is also fluent in English, a valuable skill for maintaining communication with Western allies.
Zelenskyy emphasized his commitment to securing additional support for Ukraine, including training for pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets provided by allies. This effort reflects ongoing cooperation with Western nations to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.