KYIV (Reuters) – Kyrylo Budanov, who is expected to become Ukraine’s next defence minister, is a young officer who enjoyed a meteoric rise to become military intelligence chief, decorated for his role in operations that mostly remain secret.
David Arakhamia, head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People parliamentary bloc, has said Budanov will replace Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov though no announcement is expected this week. Zelenskiy has yet to comment on the potential appointment and Reznikov has said it is new to him.
Kyrylo Oleksiyovych Budanov was born in Kyiv on Jan. 4, 1986. Despite having just turned 37, he already holds the rank of a two-star major general, held typically in Western militaries by officers in their fifties.
After graduating from the Odesa Institute of the Ground Forces in 2007, he began serving in the Main Directorate of Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence, better known by its acronym “GUR”.
Budanov fought against Russian proxy forces in the war that broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, shortly after Moscow’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula. According to media reports, he participated in a range of classified special military operations and has been made a Full Knight of the Order of Courage, one of several state awards he has earned.
Budanov was targeted by an assassination attempt on April 4, 2019, when his car was blown up by a man identified by authorities as a Russian saboteur. The bomb exploded prematurely and he was not hurt.
Budanov has run the GUR since being appointed to the post by Zelenskiy in August 2020.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, he has been involved in prisoner exchanges and has served as chairman of a body coordinating treatment of prisoners of war.
He was also a member of the Ukrainian delegation at talks to end Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, and has visited frontline troops in eastern Ukraine on at least two occasions.
Budanov makes frequent media appearances and is known for a restrained style and often cryptic commentary about suspected Ukrainian operations inside Russia, which Kyiv never directly confirms.
The GUR, along with top officials such as Reznikov and Zelenskiy, has warned of a potentially major new offensive by Moscow in the coming weeks or months.
Budanov told Reuters in an interview last June that he believed Ukraine could achieve victory against Russia only through military force. He also outlined how Ukraine would hit back if it had the right weapons.
“The strategy is very simple. Stabilise the situation. Receive the required amount of equipment and prepare the required amount of forces and means to start the counteroffensive to return all our territory,” he said.