Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, has officially announced his departure from his position. Mr. Reznikov had held this role since before the outset of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
President Volodymyr Zelensky made the announcement of Mr. Reznikov’s dismissal on Sunday, emphasizing the need for “new approaches” within the defense ministry. As his successor, Rustem Umerov, who currently oversees Ukraine’s State Property Fund, has been nominated.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Mr. Reznikov confirmed that he had submitted his resignation letter to the country’s parliament.
Rustem Umerov, at 57 years old, has gained significant recognition since the start of the Ukraine conflict. He is well-regarded internationally, regularly participating in meetings with Ukraine’s western allies and actively advocating for increased military support. Speculation in Ukrainian media suggests that he may become Kyiv’s new ambassador to London, where he has cultivated strong relationships with senior politicians.
Mr. Reznikov’s departure had been anticipated for some time. Last week, he indicated to reporters that he was exploring other positions with the Ukrainian president. According to local media, the former defense minister stated that if President Zelensky offered him the opportunity to work on another project, he would likely accept.
Ukrainian defense advisor Yuriy Sak noted that Mr. Reznikov had played a crucial role in transforming the ministry and laying the groundwork for future NATO membership. He praised Mr. Reznikov for convincing defense ministers worldwide that the seemingly impossible was achievable, particularly in terms of securing arms from foreign governments.
Experts, however, believe that the cabinet reshuffle is unlikely to bring about significant changes in Ukraine’s battlefield strategy. General Valery Zaluzhny, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, continues to oversee the campaign.
Mr. Reznikov’s dismissal takes place amid a broader anti-corruption effort within President Zelensky’s administration, a vital component of Ukraine’s aspirations to join Western institutions like the EU. While Mr. Reznikov is not personally implicated in corruption, there have been scandals at the Ministry of Defense involving inflated procurement prices for goods and equipment for the army. Earlier this year, Mr. Reznikov’s deputy, Vyacheslav Shapovalov, resigned in the aftermath of such a scandal, with Mr. Reznikov narrowly retaining his position.
The Ministry of Defense has also been shaken by recent arrests at regional recruitment offices, where officers were accused of taking bribes to exempt individuals from Ukraine’s military draft.
On Friday, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with senior Ukrainian anti-corruption officials, urging them to continue prosecuting anti-graft cases “no matter where they lead.”
Rustem Umerov, nominated by President Zelensky, previously represented Ukraine in peace talks at the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion. He allegedly experienced symptoms of suspected poisoning during peace negotiations in March 2022, alongside Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who was also part of the negotiating party. Mr. Umerov denied these reports in a statement posted on Facebook, cautioning against trusting “unverified information.”
He emphasized his determination to find a political and diplomatic resolution to the invasion, acknowledging the courage required to seek solutions.
As a member of the Crimean Tatar community, Mr. Umerov has played a significant role in Mr. Zelensky’s international outreach efforts, particularly in fostering ties in the Islamic world.
Mr. Reznikov’s departure occurs as Ukraine continues its slow and challenging counter-offensive following the acquisition of advanced weapons from Western allies. While progress on the frontlines has been gradual, top Ukrainian generals announced on Sunday that their forces had breached a critical line of Russian defenses in the southern part of the country.
In parallel, Russia reported several attempted drone attacks on its territory overnight, with Ukraine’s Odesa region being a focal point of these actions. This region has experienced multiple attacks from Russian forces, but reports suggest no casualties or injuries in these recent incidents. The region, particularly the city of Izmail, plays a crucial role in Ukraine’s grain exports through Danube ports, a significant trade route since the collapse of the Black Sea grain deal in July.