Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday announced a major shake-up at the highest levels of his government, outlining plans to oust Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov just as Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia’s invading army begins to gain steam.
In a video address, Mr. Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian lawmaker Rustem Umerov should be the nation’s new defense minister and he said he expects Ukrainian lawmakers to back the change.
“I have decided to replace the minister of defense of Ukraine,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “Oleksii Reznikov has gone through more than 550 days of full-scale war. I believe that the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society at large. Now, Rustem Umerov should lead the ministry.”
“Mr. Umerov does not need any additional introductions. I expect the parliament to support this candidate,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.
Both the dismissal of Mr. Reznikov and his replacement by Mr. Umerov require consent from Ukraine’s parliament.
Mr. Umerov, 41, is a politician with the opposition Holos party and has served as head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine since September 2022.
He played a key role in negotiations with the Kremlin that resulted in a 2022 deal allowing the export of grain and other food from Ukrainian ports, helping to avert a significant global food crisis.
Mr. Zelenskyy offered little detail about exactly why he decided to make the change, which takes place at a crucial moment for the Ukrainian military’s counteroffensive.
The ouster of Mr. Reznikov comes amid a scandal within the Defense Ministry related to the recent purchase of military jackets.
Last month, Ukrainian investigative journalists reported that about 4,900 jackets were purchased at a price roughly three times higher than normal. And instead of winter jackets, summer jackets were ordered. In the customs documents from the supplier, the jackets were priced at $29 per unit, but the Ministry of Defense reportedly paid $86 per unit, raising questions about where that additional money may have gone.
Mr. Reznikov denied any allegations of impropriety during a news conference last week and suggested there was a price discrepancy on the supplier’s side, the Kyiv Post reported.
— This article is based in part on wire service reports.