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Ukraine to replace defence minister in wartime reshuffle

2023-02-05T21:21:17Z

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov gestures as he addresses a press conference with French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu, as part of Reznikov’s official visit, at the Hotel de Brienne, the French Ministry of Armed Forces, in Paris on January 31, 2023. JULIE SEBADELHA/Pool via REUTERS

Ukraine is set to replace Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov with the chief of its military spy agency, a close ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday, in a reshuffle at the forefront of Ukraine’s war campaign.

Reznikov would be transferred to another ministerial job and replaced by Kyrylo Budanov, head of the GUR military intelligence agency, said David Arakhamia, a senior lawmaker and chief of Servant of the People parliamentary bloc.

“War dictates changes in personnel policy,” Arakhamia said on the Telegram messaging app.

He said that Ukraine’s “force” agencies – like the defence ministry – should not be headed by politicians, but by career defence or security officials.

Arakhamia did not say when the move would be formalised. There was no immediate comment from Reznikov.

Asked earlier at a news conference about media reports of his possible exit from the ministry, the defence minister told reporters that any decision was up to Zelenskiy.

Reznikov, 56, became defence minister in Nov. 2021, just a few months before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

During the war he fostered relationships with Western defence officials and helped oversee the receipt of billions of dollars of military assistance – including rocket launchers and tanks – to help Kyiv fend off the Russian invasion.

As a wartime defence minister, Reznikov singled out Ukraine’s “de facto” integration into the NATO military alliance as a top priority, even if joining the bloc was not immediately possible de jure.

During his tenure as defence minister, he spoke out strongly about wartime corruption, which he said was akin to “marauding”.

But in recent weeks his own defence ministry became embroiled in a corruption scandal over an army food contract that envisaged paying vastly inflated prices.

One of his deputy ministers has been fired and named a suspect in the scandal, and another one has since resigned separately.