Ukraine's Defense Minister On Chopping Block Over Army Contract Scandal
The fate of Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov continues to be unclear, with Kiev sending mixed signals about his role in corruption scandals which in recent weeks has resulted in several top resignations.
President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated Monday that no major personnel changes in the defense sector will take place this week, despite the country's ruling political party, Servant of the People, on Sunday issuing a statement saying Reznikov is being replaced as defense minister.
However, the statement indicated Reznikov will still remain in the Zelensky government after removal from the defense ministry.
The Washington Post on Monday detailed the confusion and conflicting signals over Reznikov's fate in the following:
Ukraine’s current military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, is slated to replace Oleksii Reznikov as defense minister, David Arakhamia, leader of Zelensky’s party in parliament and a close ally to the president, said on his Telegram channel.
On Monday morning, however, Arakhamia posted another message on Telegram saying no change would take place this week.
“We are waiting for the appointment of the heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service of Ukraine,” he wrote. “Personnel changes in the field of defense will not take place this week.”
The defense ministry's number two, deputy minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, was forced to resign his post in late January. Crucially, he had been in charge of the army's logistical support, and in that role was caught signing food contracts at inflated prices.
Shapovalov also had no small part in overseeing the billions of dollars flowing from the pockets of US and European taxpayers as authorized defense aid. He purchased military rations at inflated prices in what appears a scheme to line the pockets of contractors, and potentially involving kickbacks to himself. But Reznikov had tried to explain away the scandal by calling it a mere "technical mistake".
Reznikov throughout the war has been favored in Western capitals, and has also made himself very friendly to Western defense companies, at one point even calling his country a "testing ground" for weapons manufacturers. Most recently, he's led the Zelensky government's push for fighter jets, after securing main battle tanks upon the approval of Washington and Berlin. It could be his allies in the West don't want to see him go, despite the embarrassment of him as defense minister having overseen the army food contract scandal.