After days of rumors and speculation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed that he is replacing Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, which comes at a moment of the faltering counteroffensive, and amid a corruption probe into defense ministry purchases and potential diversion of state funds.
"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," Zelensky announced Sunday evening.
He said that he's tapping the head of Ukraine’s State Property Fund Rustem Umerov as a replacement to the top defense post. Reznikov had been at the helm through a year-and-a-half since the Russian invasion.
Without doubt, it constitutes the most significant shake-up in Ukraine's government and military since the war's start. Reznikov confirmed Monday that he has formally submitted his resignation, and he's expected to be appointed to a prime diplomatic post, such as the ambassador to the UK.
Reznikov said back in January 2023, "We are carrying out NATO’s mission today. They aren’t shedding their blood. We’re shedding ours. That’s why they’re required to supply us with weapons." His face and words have been frequently featured in international reports on how the war effort is going, often standing beside Zelensky.
Another controversial statement of his came in July 2022, when he said, "We are interested in testing modern systems in the fight against the enemy, and we are inviting arms manufacturers to test the new products here." He's been seen as instrumental in getting Western governments, especially the US and UK, to fork over tens of billions of dollars in defense aid, including M1 Abrams and other tanks. He has said this is vital for the defense of Ukraine as a "de facto" NATO member.
But he's also long angrily complained that Ukraine's arsenal is 'almost exhausted' and has been constant in demanding more quantities of advanced weapons from Western partners, but especially artillery shells to face down Russia's superior firepower on the front lines.
interesting that Zelensky fired Reznikov same day Ukraine MoD announced they're extending mobilization to those with hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis, mental disorders and so on. Wonder what Budanov thinks about all thishttps://t.co/moLAg3pO89— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) September 3, 2023
Days prior to his stepping down Monday, Bloomberg wrote that Reznikov has been front and center in an anti-graft probe, citing local Ukrainian media:
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s anti-graft crackdown is fueling speculation that he may dismiss Ukraine’s defense minister following accusations of corruption linked to procuring military supplies.
The Ukrayinska Pravda newspaper, citing sources it didn’t name, said on Thursday Minister Oleksii Reznikov may be replaced as early as next week. The report followed accusations from anti-corruption activists and media that under his leadership the ministry has purchased food and uniforms at inflated prices. It also coincides with comments from a lawmaker that Reznikov may be shifted to the post of Kyiv’s ambassador to the UK.
High-ranking military officers and Kiev officials have for months come under scrutiny for driving expensive luxury cars and acquiring expensive villas. Separately, the Ministry of Agriculture has also recently been under for inflated pasta purchases, which caused a reported loss for state coffers of at least $1.7 million, and triggering suspicions that corrupt officials lined their pockets. This seems to be a theme in what has for years been ranked as Europe's most corrupt country.