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Ukrainian Zelensky will replace the Minister of Defense in wartime change


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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday he would replace his defense minister, Oleksey Reznikov, in a move that marks the biggest shake-up in his government since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year.

Zelensky said he would replace Reznikov, who led Ukraine’s successful campaign to obtain massive military aid from Western allies to resist Russia’s invasion, with Rustam Omirov, who currently runs the Ukrainian agency responsible for privatization.

Oleksiy Reznikov has gone through more than 550 days of total war. “I think the ministry needs new methods and other forms of interaction with both the military and society as a whole,” Zelensky said in a video address to the nation Sunday night.

“Autumn is the time for consolidation.”

The move to replace Reznikov comes as Ukrainian forces appear poised to make bigger gains after a slow start to their counter-offensive against Russian forces in southeastern Ukraine.

Zelensky said he had asked parliament to approve Reznikov’s replacement “this week”.

Although the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine operates independently of the Ministry of Defense in coordinating military strategy and combat operations, the role of the Minister is fundamental in purchasing weapons and mobilizing forces. Zelensky, as president and commander-in-chief, ultimately leads and bears responsibility for both.

The changes also come on the heels of a series of allegations of corruption against the Defense Ministry, including accusations from activists that it overcharged for army food and military jackets. Zelensky did not mention these accusations in his announcement.

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Reznikov, who served as a paratrooper in the Soviet army but became a prominent lawyer and then a politician after Ukraine’s independence, was appointed months before Russia’s all-out invasion in February of last year.

He has denied accusations of graft, but one of his subordinates was fired early this year after allegedly buying eggs for the military at inflated prices.

Reznikov is expected to be appointed as Ukraine’s new ambassador to the UK, according to local news reports citing officials.

Umarov, whose candidacy is expected to win swift approval in parliament, is an ethnic Crimean Tatar with roots in the Black Sea peninsula that Russia illegally annexed in 2014 and used as a staging post for its full invasion of Ukraine.

Omeroff is fluent in English, which is crucial in a role that requires constant communication with senior defense officials from Western allies, including the United States and European Union countries.

Once a successful businessman, Omirov has since September 2022 headed a government agency that auctions assets to investors and operates government-owned factories and properties.

Umarov, as defense minister, is expected to clean up the ministry while maintaining a steady supply of Western weapons.

Zelensky also said he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron by phone on Sunday to discuss “new supplies that can help our warriors,” including training pilots in France to fly F-16 fighter jets that allies are providing to Kiev.

It was not immediately clear whether Ukraine was also seeking to secure French fighter jets, given that the French fleet does not include F-16s.

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“There is a very important agreement about the training of our pilots in France. Our alliance of modern fighters is getting stronger,” Zelensky said.

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