Zelensky Replaces Defence Minister Amid Struggling Counteroffensive and Growing Corruption Scandals

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) reads a document during a bilateral meeting wit
ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine’s Minister of Defense has resigned after President Volodymyr Zelensky announced his intentions to replace him amid the struggling counteroffensive against Russia and mounting corruption scandals.

Oleksii Reznikov, who has led the Ukrainian war effort since the Russian invasion in February of last year, tendered his resignation on Monday, writing on social media: “It was an honour to serve the Ukrainian people and work for the Ukrainian Army for the last 22 months, the toughest period of Ukraine’s modern history.”

The former deputy prime minister’s resignation from the war effort comes as Kyiv has come under increasing pressure from Western allies for its slower than hoped for success in its counteroffensive against the now heavily entrenched Russian lines in the South of the country.

Reznikov has personally acknowledged that failures on the front may cause “emotional disappointment” abroad and that expectations may have been “overestimated”.

Perhaps more significantly, however, the decision to replace Reznikov comes amid a flurry of corruption scandals, including the Defence Ministry allegedly purchasing food for soldiers at inflated prices as well as claims that the ministry had vastly overpaid suppliers in Turkey for winter military jackets.

Last month, President Zelensky also fired all of the regional heads of military recruitment for allegedly accepting bribes from young men seeking to avoid being sent into battle.

The outgoing defence minister has denied any involvement in corruption, yet the timing may appear to outsiders to indicate  the decision to replace him may have been motivated by Kyiv seeking to reassure its Western backers in Brussels, London, and Washington that their money isn’t going to waste and that the government is cracking down on corruption, which has plagued the country since regaining its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Indeed, just hours before Zelensky announced his plans to change defence ministers, Ukraine’s State Security Service detained billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. The oligarch, who was a backer of Zelensky’s 2019 presidential run, owned the television station upon which the Ukrainian president rose to fame as a comedian playing a fictional president. Kolomoisky also served as the governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and previously owned the country’s largest bank before it was nationalised in 2016 after $5.5 billion in assets went missing.

Announcing his decision to sack Reznikov, President Zelensky did not give a specific reason, but said: “I believe that the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and the society at large.”

Interestingly, the move to replace the defence minister has been telegraphed publicly on multiple occasions, including by the head of Zelensky’s faction in the Ukrainian parliament, David Arakhamia, who stated as long ago in February that Reznikov was going to be replaced.

It remains to be seen what the future lies in store for the outgoing defence minister, however, there have been some suggestions that he may land the cushy role as ambassador to London where he could continue his efforts of lobbying for more Western military aid. The former Ukrainian ambassador to London was sacked from his role in July after he was seen as criticising Zelensky’s leadership in public over one of a series of “gratitude” controversies.

Rustem Umerov, who has served as the head of Ukraine’s state property fund, has been tapped as Rezniko’s likely successor for the top job at the defence ministry. Umerov, a member of the opposition Holos party, has nevertheless been a staunch supporter of Zelensky’s position to refuse to cede any territory to Russia. The former investment banker would become the highest-ranking member of the Crimean Tatar ethnic group, potentially signalling that Kyiv is still intent on trying to recapture the peninsula that was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter: or e-mail to: kzindulka@breitbart.com


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