Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he’s replacing his defense minister, who has served in the post throughout Russia’s invasion and faces allegations of graft in military procurement on his watch.
(Bloomberg) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he’s replacing his defense minister, who has served in the post throughout Russia’s invasion and faces allegations of graft in military procurement on his watch.
Oleksii Reznikov’s removal, which requires parliamentary backing, would signal a top-level overhaul in Zelenskiy’s wartime cabinet and could help give the president cover against concern that sleaze is undermining the armed forces as Ukrainian soldiers fight Russia at the front.
“I think the ministry needs new approaches and another format of cooperation with the military and with the society,” Zelenskiy said Sunday in his daily video address. “The parliament will be asked to approve the decision this week.”
Zelenskiy nominated State Property Fund head Rustem Umerov as new defense chief. Umerov, who has been involved in war-related talks, including on prisoner swaps, has been praised by anti-corruption activists for his efforts to clean up graft at the fund.
US President Joe Biden, asked by reporters near his home in Delaware, said he’s aware that Zelenskiy intends to replace his defense minister. He declined to comment further.
Reznikov, who was appointed two months before Russia staged a full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022, has rejected allegations by activists and the media that the ministry overpaid for food and military uniforms. He has spent much of the war traveling to allied countries to drum up support for Ukraine’s war effort.
Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian leaders have kept a steady focus on maintaining diplomatic and military support among Ukraine’s allies. Last month, the president began a new round of talks with allies on weapons systems that could strengthen Ukraine’s defenses and boost a slow-moving offensive to take back land occupied by Russia.
The US has committed almost $77 billion to Ukraine’s defense, and President Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve an additional $13 billion for Ukraine war costs as part of a $40 billion supplemental spending request. Conservatives in the US House have threatened a government shutdown over the spending package and vowed to oppose any “blank check” for Ukraine.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday that Ukrainian forces made “notable progress” in their two-month-old counteroffensive last week.
In Kyiv, Zelenskiy stepped up a crackdown on corruption when he fired the army’s top recruitment officers in August and dismissed several lawmakers.
–With assistance from Stephanie Lai.
(Updates with Biden comment in fifth paragraph.)
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