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Zelensky Replaces Defense Minister Amid Corruption Allegations in Ukraine’s Largest Leadership Shake-Up Since the Start of the War

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Sunday that he’d be replacing his defense minister.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Sunday that he’d be replacing his defense minister. The removal of defense minister Oleksii Reznikov amid a corruption scandal is the largest shake-up of top Ukrainian leadership since the war began.

  • Zelensky said in a statement that new leadership and “new approaches” were needed after Reznikov served through “more than 550 days of war.”
  • Reznikov was appointed defense minister in November 2021, but his time leading the defense ministry has been marred by allegations of corruption. His dismissal comes during Zelensky’s ongoing crackdown on corruption to reassure both the Ukrainian public and western allies.
  • According to Zelensky, there are now 112 criminal proceedings underway against 33 defense procurement officials. Two high-ranking officials were revealed to have pilfered approximately $1.68 million in defense funds.
  • Rustem Umerov, an ethnic Crimean Tatar and a politician from an opposition party, is Zelensky’s pick to replace Reznikov.
  • Umerov has headed up the State Property Fund of Ukraine since September of last year. He has played a role in prisoner exchanges, swaps for children and civilians held in Russia, and was a negotiator during the UN-backed grain deal talks with Russia.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times noted Reznikov has not been personally implicated in the military contract corruption scandal. The Times reported that Reznikov’s departure was due to several factors: “an understanding that Ukraine will need new leadership as the war drags on, the din of criticism from Ukrainian civil society groups and media over the contracting scandals, and Mr. Reznikov’s own requests to step down.”
  • Politico reported there were “rumblings for weeks that Reznikov’s days were numbered. His reputation took several hits earlier this year over a handful of wartime scandals in the Defense Ministry in which officials were accused of profiteering. While Reznikov was never implicated, the revelations were a black eye not only for his ministry, but for him personally.”
  • NBC News observed “The change of defense minister must be approved by parliament, but it is likely to be supported by a majority of lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada. Zelenskyy said he expected parliament to approve Umerov’s appointment.”



  • The Wall Street Journal reported Umerov’s appointment would make him the most senior Crimean Tatar official in Ukraine’s government, “a sign of the community’s wholehearted embrace of the Ukrainian cause and of Kyiv’s commitment to retake the peninsula.” 
  • Fox News provided more details about the contracting scandal. The Ministry of Defense allegedly purchased military jackets for $86 per unit, instead of their typical price of $29, and allegedly purchased summer jackets instead of winter jackets. 
  • The New York Post detailed some of the other corruption allegations uncovered during Zelensky’s corruption crackdown. “In addition to the allegations against Reznikov, recruitment officials were accused of embezzling funds, while a member of parliament was arrested and accused of collaborating with Russia. Early in August, Zelensky fired all 33 of his heads of regional recruitment following the embezzlement allegations.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023