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Oleksii Reznikov

Reznikov’s out Zelensky replaces Ukraine’s defense minister in biggest government shake-up since Russia’s full-scale invasion

Source: Meduza
Oleksii Reznikov
Oleksii Reznikov
Sebastian Gollnow / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov submitted his resignation on Monday after President Volodymyr Zelensky announced his decision to replace Reznikov with Rustem Umerov, the chairman of Ukraine’s State Property Fund. Zelensky made the announcement in a video address on Sunday night. “I believe that the [Defense] Ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society at large. Now, Rustem Umerov should lead the Ministry,” Zelensky said. 

Reznikov, who had headed the Defense Ministry since November 2021, shared a photo of his resignation letter in a tweet. “It was an honor to serve the Ukrainian people and work for the #UAarmy for the last 22 months, the toughest period of Ukraine’s modern history,” he said. 

Umerov resigned from his post as State Property Fund chairman on Monday. A Ukrainian politician and businessman of Crimean Tatar origin, 41-year-old Umerov was a founder of the Crimean Tatars Fellowship and an advisor to long-time Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev. Umerov served as a lawmaker in the Holos party from 2019 to 2022, and then became chairman of Ukraine’s State Property Fund. 

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Umerov was part of the Ukrainian delegation that conducted several rounds of negotiations with Russia in Belarus and Turkey. He was involved in brokering prisoner exchanges, as well as the Black Sea grain deal (Russia terminated the deal, which allowed for grain shipments through Ukrainian ports, in July 2023). According to the investigative outlet Agentstvo, Umerov was poisoned in March 2022, leaving him temporarily unable to participate in the talks. 

Reznikov’s replacement is the biggest shake-up in Ukraine’s government since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, writes The New York Times. The reshuffle comes after the Defense Ministry was hit by corruption scandals in recent months and as the Ukrainian counteroffensive is entering a decisive phase. 

Rumors about Reznikov’s impending resignation first circulated in January, after several high-ranking officials — including Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov — resigned from their posts amid corruption scandals. Over the next few months, Ukrainian media uncovered several more scandals within the Defense Ministry, including the procurement of food supplies for Ukrainian troops at inflated prices and unfulfilled weapons contracts worth millions of dollars. This led to renewed speculation that Reznikov would soon step down. 

Speaking to The New York Times, an unnamed official in the Ukrainian President’s Office attributed Reznikov’s replacement to several factors, including the need for new leadership “as the war drags on,” public backlash over the procurement scandals, and “Reznikov’s own requests to step down.” 

Reznikov may be appointed as Ukraine’s ambassador to London. Speculation about Reznikov receiving a diplomatic appointment began circulating days before his dismissal (Holos party lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak, for example, wrote about Reznikov being tapped as ambassador on his Telegram channel on August 31). However, the former defense minister told the Ukrainian news site Babel on Sunday that he “didn’t know” anything about it. 

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