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Zelensky announces dismissal of Defense Minister Reznikov

by The Kyiv Independent news desk September 3, 2023 11:49 PM 2 min read
Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov holds up a military jacket during a press conference on Aug. 28, 2023, in Kyiv. Reznikov gave press conference after a series of scandals involving the Ministry of Defense's procurement of food and ammunition at boosted prices. (Photo: Vitalii Nosach/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the decision to dismiss Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Sept. 3 and replace him with 41-year-old Rustem Umerov, the chairman of the State Property Fund of Ukraine.

“I believe that the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction both with the military and with society as a whole,” Zelensky said in his evening address to the nation.

The decision on Reznikov’s dismissal will be voted on in the parliament in the coming week.

“I expect parliament to support this candidacy. Autumn is a time for strengthening,” Zelensky added.

Before his current post, Umerov, a Ukrainian politician and businessman of Crimean Tatar origin, had served as a member of parliament in the Holos party from 2019-2022.

A 57-year-old Reznikov was appointed as 17th Ukraine’s Defense Minister in November 2021 after a month of negotiations as he "did not want" to take the post, Forbes earlier reported.

Reznikov had held the post for the entirety of the full-scale war, and was the face of Ukraine in contacts with foreign defense ministers at bilateral meetings and the Ramstein format summits.

His dismissal comes in the wake of several scandals within the Defense Ministry brought to light by Ukrainian media, particularly involving the procurement of equipment and supplies for Ukrainian soldiers.

In August, an investigation by Ukrainian media Dzerkalo Tyzhnia revealed that the Ministry of Defense purchased "winter" clothing  worth $33 million for the military from a Turkish company last September, which turned out to be summer clothing.

Increased scrutiny had already been placed on the ministry and Reznikov himself back in January this year, when a major anomaly was uncovered by Ukrianian media in the procurement of food supplies for Ukrainian soldiers.

The ministry was found to have purchased eggs at Hr 17 ($0.5) each, while in Kyiv’s grocery stores the price is around Hr 7 ($0.2) per egg, according to the Nashi Groshi investigative project.

Following that scandal, Ukrainian media reported in February that Zelensky had decided to remove Reznikov and likely replace him with military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov.

On Feb. 15, Reznikov had said that Zelensky had decided to keep him on, with the former's personal relationships with Ukraine's defense partners seen as one of the main reasons.

Zelensky, who on Aug. 27 announced a proposal equating corruption with treason in Ukraine, did not comment on the corruption scandals when announcing Reznikov's dismissal.


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