By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late on September 3 that he has decided to replace wartime Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov with Rustem Umerov, a Ukrainian politician of Crimean Tatar origin, in a surprising shake-up as Kyiv’s forces press on with their counteroffensive against the Russian invasion.
Zelenskiy said in a Telegram post and video address that Reznikov “went through these more than 550 days of full-scale war. I believe the ministry now needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society as a whole.”
“The ministry shall be headed by Rustem Umerov,” Zelenskiy said, adding that he will propose the change to parliament in the coming days and that he expects lawmakers to approve the appointment.
“The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine knows this man well, and Mr. Umerov needs no further introduction,” Zelenskiy said. “I expect the parliament to support this candidacy.”
The 41-year-old Umerov, a deputy of the Holos (Voice) party, was last year appointed to head the country’s State Property Fund.
Reznikov was appointed to his post on November 4, 2021, a few months before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
The 57-year-old Reznikov played a key role in persuading Ukraine’s Western allies to provide billions of dollars in military aid and sophisticated weapons to assist Kyiv’s fight against Russian forces.
In February 2023, the leader of Zelenskiy’s faction in parliament said that Reznikov was about to be replaced by General Kyrylo Budanov.
However, a senior Ukrainian official the next day said no personnel changes would be announced at the ministry at that time.
It was not immediately clear what had sparked those reports of Reznikov’s departure.
But rumors of a possible Reznikov resignation or ouster had mounted after a series of accusations of corruption within the ministry.
Reznikov said after those initial reports that he was not planning to resign but added that any decision about his future would be made by the president.
“He nominates an appointee, and the [parliament] appoints. Therefore, only by the decision of the president of Ukraine will I make certain decisions, and I will do what the president of Ukraine tells me,” he said.
In January, Ukrainian media reported that the Defense Ministry had allegedly purchased products for the military at inflated prices through a “gasket” company. Other charges of corruption were also alleged in the media.