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KYIV — Ukraine’s protection minister resigned Monday, hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky introduced plans to interchange him. The transfer got here amid a widening graft probe, as Kyiv seems to sign to Western companions who present monumental quantities of protection help that it has zero tolerance for corruption.
Zelensky stated on Sunday night time that he would ask parliament to approve his nomination of Rustem Umerov, head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine, to interchange Oleksii Reznikov, who has served as protection minister since November 2021 and was answerable for overseeing billions in weapons and different navy help.
Reznikov’s elimination comes after months of hypothesis that he can be ousted. Though Reznikov has not been charged personally in ongoing corruption investigations and Zelensky didn’t cite malfeasance in his announcement, a number of high-profile allegations of graft have plagued the Protection Ministry.
“I consider the ministry wants new approaches and different codecs of interplay with each the navy and society as a complete,” Zelensky stated.
In a press release to The Washington Submit, Reznikov insisted that he had labored to root out corruption and that the ministry was functioning with higher oversight and extra aggressive procurement procedures.
“My resignation shouldn’t be associated to any corruption scandals: the choice was made by the president for different causes,” Reznikov stated, including that he had accomplished the duties assigned to him. “The important thing instructions of reforms have been set, and the method of receiving new weapons in Ukraine has grow to be steady. Our course for NATO membership is permitted.”
Early this yr, the ministry confronted blowback for allegedly buying meals for troopers at inflated costs, and David Arakhamia, the pinnacle of Zelensky’s faction in parliament, publicly introduced — incorrectly on the time — that Reznikov can be eliminated. Final month, Ukrainian media instructed the ministry had engaged in a corruption scheme whereas buying jackets for the navy — allegations Reznikov vehemently denied.
On Saturday, Ukraine’s State Safety Service accused billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky of fraud and cash laundering. Kolomoisky beforehand owned Ukraine’s largest financial savings and mortgage financial institution, PrivatBank, which was nationalized in 2016 to forestall its insolvency after $5.5 billion in belongings went lacking. Kolomoisky additionally served as governor of the nation’s Dnipropetrovsk area and strongly backed Zelensky in his 2019 bid for the presidency.
In his assertion, Reznikov cited advances within the battle towards graft.
“Regardless of the conflict and important challenges for Ukraine, we’ve managed to do loads to battle corruption within the ministry,” he wrote. “We’ve reformed procurement procedures by launching two procurement companies — a protection company and a assets company. This may assist us to keep away from pointless hyperlinks within the provide chain and decrease doable corruption dangers.”
“We’ve additionally diversified meals provides within the Ministry of Protection,” he continued. “Once I was appointed minister, there was just one provider. Due to our efforts, now we’ve 5. We’ve created an impartial public physique — the Anti-Corruption Council underneath the Ministry of Protection, which incorporates well-known volunteers and journalists. We persistently carried out the requirements of pleasant NATO nations and used the expertise of the USA, Nice Britain, and NATO.”
Because of the ministry’s new vigilance, Reznikov stated, “a number of high-ranking officers of the Ministry of Protection had been faraway from their posts and have become topics to investigation.”
The U.S. Nationwide Safety Council declined to touch upon the shake-up.
Along with preventing corruption, Kyiv can also be underneath stress to supply ends in its counteroffensive, which Reznikov acknowledged in an interview with The Submit within the spring won’t reside as much as Western expectations and will trigger “emotional disappointment.”
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Months into the counterattack, Ukrainian troops are going through an immense problem within the nation’s south, the place Russian forces ready complicated defensive positions and mined large swaths of territory. There was some progress in current weeks, with Ukrainian forces claiming to take management of the strategic village of Robotyne. However the operation has been sluggish, and Russian forces are concurrently making an attempt to retake occupied territory they misplaced final yr within the northeast.
In his resignation letter Monday, Reznikov claimed success in rearming the Ukrainian navy. When he began within the job, he wrote, companions refused to even present Ukraine with moveable air protection methods often called stingers. Within the time since, he stated, an aviation coalition was shaped, and Ukraine obtained “fashionable tanks, antimissile protection/anti-missile gear, antiaircraft missiles, armored autos, artillery, MLRS, different forms of fashionable Western-style weapons.”
“The important thing duties that had been outlined once I was appointed to the place had been accomplished,” he wrote, citing reforms in procurement and digital transformation throughout the ministry.
Arakhamia, the pinnacle of Zelensky’s parliamentary group, advised The Submit on Monday that the incoming minister, Umerov, “has quite a lot of belief from worldwide establishments” and that it’s time for a brand new part within the ministry.
Daria Kaleniuk, government director of the Anti-Corruption Motion Middle, a Ukrainian NGO, stated in a Fb publish that Umerov, has a “strong strategic imaginative and prescient” and is a “gifted negotiator.”
Umerov and his household are Crimean Tatars, a predominantly Muslim minority group from the peninsula Russia invaded and illegally annexed in 2014. Whereas serving in parliament, he co-chaired an initiative targeted on retaking Crimea from Russian management. He was additionally concerned in key negotiations associated to releasing Ukrainian prisoners of conflict, stated a authorities official who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to debate the topic.
“The actual fact a Crimean Tatar was appointed because the minister of protection is a robust message to the world as Ukraine plans to finish the conflict,” Kaleniuk wrote.
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In a message, she added that Reznikov had been “delaying any decision-making” relating to reforms within the ministry and “sadly didn’t resign” after the food-procurement scandal. His dismissal was a “matter of time” after the most recent corruption allegations, she stated.
“The resignation of Reznikov is an efficient signal,” she stated. “It’s an indication that public stress in Ukraine works regardless of the large-scale invasion.”
Tamila Tasheva, the president’s consultant to Crimea, who’s presently in Kyiv, stated Umerov has labored on releasing prisoners of conflict and has been a key determine in Ukraine’s relations with the Gulf and Turkey.
The choice to nominate a Crimean Tatar to the function “is a crucial sign for Ukrainian society and all our residents in Crimea that Ukraine will battle for Crimea till it’s free of Russian occupation,” she stated. “A Crimean, a consultant of the indigenous Crimean Tatar folks because the minister of protection of Ukraine is in itself a sworn statement of the priorities of state coverage relating to Crimea.”
There may be some hypothesis that Reznikov — who speaks English and has solid sturdy relationships with Ukraine’s companions — could grow to be Ukraine’s ambassador to London.
The place was vacated in July when Zelensky dismissed Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko. His firing got here quickly after he described a comment by Zelensky about expressing gratitude for British navy help as “unhealthy” sarcasm.
A Overseas Ministry spokesman declined to remark Monday on any potential appointments.
In his assertion to The Submit, Reznikov thanked Ukraine’s worldwide supporters.
“I’m proud that I used to be in a position to serve Ukraine within the darkest hours for our state,” he wrote, “and I really feel gratitude for the folks and governments of our allied nations for the large and invaluable help they supply to Ukraine.”
Morgunov reported from Warsaw.
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