Zelensky replaces Ukraine’s defense minister after 18 months of war

Rustem Umerov, incoming Ukrainian defense minister
Rustem Umerov has been named by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as the country’s new incoming defense minister.
(Sergei Kholodilin / BelTA Pool Photo)
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is replacing his defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, with Crimean Tatar lawmaker Rustem Umerov, who will take over the post this week.

Reznikov submitted a letter of resignation on Monday after Zelensky’s announcement the day before.

Zelensky wrote on his official Telegram account that new leadership was needed after Reznikov had gone through “more than 550 days of full-scale war.”


Later, in his nightly address, Zelensky said he believes “that the ministry needs new approaches and different formats of interaction both with the military and with society.”

“The Verkhovna Rada [parliament] of Ukraine is well-acquainted with this person, and Umerov does not require additional introductions. I expect support for this candidacy from parliament,” the president told the nation.

Umerov, 41, a politician with the opposition Holos party, has served as head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine since September 2022. He was involved in the exchange with Russia of prisoners of war, political prisoners, children and civilians, as well as the evacuation of civilians from occupied territories. Umerov was also part of the Ukrainian delegation in negotiations with Russia over the United Nations-backed grain deal.

Resnikov’s removal comes after a scandal over the Defense Ministry’s procurement of military jackets. In August, Ukrainian investigative journalists reported that the materials were purchased at a price three times higher than normal and that, instead of winter jackets, summer ones were ordered. In the customs documents from the supplier, the jackets were priced at $29 per unit, but the Defense Ministry paid $86 per unit. Reznikov denied the allegations during a news conference last week.

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President Biden told reporters in Delaware on Sunday that he was aware Zelensky had replaced his defense chief. Asked if he had any comment, Biden said, “Not publicly.” The U.S. Department of Defense also declined to comment.

“Reznikov was a good and prominent international negotiator, but it appears that there is chaos and disorder within the Ministry of Defense, which many deputies have taken advantage of, resulting in corruption scandals during the war,” said analyst Volodymyr Fesenko from the Kyiv-based Penta Center.


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Military analysts say that the replacement of the minister will not affect the situation on the front lines because the minister is not responsible for operational decisions.

Military analyst Roman Svitan said the advance of the Ukrainian army southward toward occupied Melitopol and Berdyansk will continue without a pause during the autumn-winter period. Therefore, the new minister will need to “intensify negotiations with Western partners of Kyiv and ensure a continuous cycle of supplying the necessary weaponry to the front lines.”