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Discover the dramatic upheaval in Ukraine’s defence leadership amidst ongoing conflict and corruption scandals. Dive into the intriguing world of political change and power dynamics in the heart of Eastern Europe.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has relieved his defence minister of duty, citing the necessity for new strategies as the ongoing conflict with Russia enters its 19th month.
In a statement, Zelensky announced, “This week, I will request the parliament to make a personnel change… I’ve decided to replace Ukraine’s defence minister. Oleksii Reznikov has served during more than 550 days of a full-scale war.”
As his replacement, President Zelensky has nominated Rustem Umerov, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament. Zelensky emphasized Umerov’s familiarity with the Verkhovna Rada (the legislature), stating, “The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is well-acquainted with this individual, and Mr. Umerov requires no further introduction. “I anticipate that the parliament will support this candidate.”
Oleksii Reznikov assumed the role of defence minister in November 2021, with prior government experience as deputy prime minister, as detailed in his official biography on the defence ministry’s website.
Reznikov’s dismissal follows a series of corruption scandals that have plagued Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense. Earlier in the year, President Zelensky had dismissed numerous senior officials in connection with a procurement scandal involving wartime supplies. Furthermore, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister resigned amid corruption allegations. In August, President Zelensky took the decision to remove all officials responsible for regional military recruitment centres, citing ongoing criminal investigations.
While Reznikov himself was not directly implicated in these scandals, their association with his tenure has raised concerns.
In addition to these developments, one of Ukraine’s influential oligarchs and a prominent supporter of President Zelensky, Ihor Kolomoisky, was arrested over the weekend as part of a fraud investigation.
President Zelensky has consistently underscored the imperative of eliminating corruption throughout Ukraine’s government apparatus, emphasizing its significance for Kyiv’s aspiration to achieve coveted membership in both NATO and the European Union. Transparency International’s 2021 report ranks Ukraine as the second most corrupt country in Europe, trailing only behind Russia. On the global scale, Ukraine occupies the 122nd position out of 180 countries in terms of corruption.
Zelensky’s commitment to combating corruption played a pivotal role in his rapid ascent to power in 2019. As a former comedian who portrayed Ukraine’s president in a popular TV show, Zelensky had no prior political experience but resonated with the deep-seated dissatisfaction over widespread corruption within the nation.
While Ukraine officially attained the status of an EU candidate state last year, Brussels has unequivocally conveyed that Kyiv must intensify its anti-corruption efforts to attain full membership.