Zelenskyy moves to replace wartime defense minister

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday he had decided to dismiss Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov from his post and would ask parliament this week to replace him with Rustem Umerov, head of Ukraine’s main privatization fund.

The announcement, made in his nightly video address to the nation, sets the stage for the biggest shakeup of Ukraine’s defense establishment during the war launched by Russia in February 2022.

Reznikov, who was named defense minister in November 2021, has helped secure billions of dollars of Western military aid to help the war effort, but been dogged by graft allegations surrounding his ministry that he described as smears.

“I’ve decided to replace the Minister of Defense of Ukraine. Oleksii Reznikov has been through more than 550 days of full-scale war,” Zelenskyy said.

“I believe the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society as a whole.”

The change of defense minister must be approved by parliament, but it is likely to be supported by a majority of lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada. Zelenskyy said he expected parliament to approve Umerov’s appointment.

Umerov, a 41-year-old ex-lawmaker who is a Crimean Tatar, has headed Ukraine’s State Property Fund since September 2022 and has played a role in sensitive wartime negotiations on, for instance, the Black Sea grain deal.

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