Ukraine to remove defense minister ahead of expected Russian offensive: lawmaker

AP Photo/Michael Probst
Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov gestures as he talks to Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg prior to the meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Jan. 20, 2023. Defense leaders discussed future military aid to Ukraine, amid ongoing dissent over who will provide battle tanks.

Ukraine is set to replace Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov amid a series of corruption scandals, and ahead of an expected Russian offensive, according to a top Ukrainian lawmaker. 

“War dictates personnel policy. Time and circumstances call for strengthening and regrouping. This is happening now and will continue to happen in the future,” wrote the Ukrainian Parliament’s majority leader David Arakhamia on Telegram. 

Reznikov, who has served as defense minister throughout the war with Russia, will reportedly be replaced with Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Kyiv’s military intelligence agency.

Reznikov will reportedly remain in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s cabinet as Minister for Strategic Industries, “to strengthen military-industrial cooperation.” 

Arakhamia called the changes “absolutely logical” given the two men’s “expertise” as Ukraine ramps up and readies for an expected onslaught of Russian attacks.

A handful of Kyiv officials — including Reznikov’s deputy, Vyacheslav Shapovalov — were ousted from their posts last month in what the government called a push against corruption. The ministry came under scrutiny for allegedly overpaying on food for Ukrainian soldiers. 

The deputy denied the accusations but “asked to be fired in order not to create threats to the stable support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” according to the ministry.

Reznikov reportedly said he was unaware of his pending dismissal in an interview with Ukrainian outlet Ukraniska Pravda published Sunday. 

But earlier in the day, Reznikov said at a Kyiv press conference that “no official remains in office forever” and that he would step down if Zelensky dictated the change. 

As the crackdown on corruption continues, Zelensky said last week that the government was “preparing new reforms” for Ukraine that would “change the social, legal and political reality in many ways.”

It isn’t yet clear exactly when the Reznikov-Budanov swap will be implemented — but the Kyiv Independent reports the changes will be enacted quickly.

The war with Russia is just weeks away from its one-year mark, and Reznikov warned last week that Moscow is regrouping up to 500,000 soldiers on the border for a renewed offensive in the coming weeks or month.

Tags Oleksii Reznikov russia Russia-Ukraine war ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky

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