Ukraine to replace defense minister in wartime shakeup: top lawmaker

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Ukraine is ready to replace Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov with the head of its military spy agency, a close ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday, in a shakeup at the helm of Ukraine’s war campaign.

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

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

Reznikov’s shakeup would be the highest-profile government change in a series of resignations and firings following a corruption scandal late last month and Zelenskiy’s pledge that Ukraine would meet Western standards for clean government.

Arakhamia said Ukraine’s “force” agencies, such as the Defense Ministry, should not be headed by wartime politicians, but by people with defense or security experience.

He added that Reznikov would be appointed minister of strategic industries.

Reznikov, who had said earlier on Sunday that any decision on a reshuffle was up to Zelenskiy, told Ukrainian online outlet Fakty ICTV later that night that the transfer to the new ministry was news to him.

“If I suddenly received such an offer from the president of Ukraine or the prime minister, I would reject it because I don’t have the experience,” Reznikov said.

There was no immediate statement from Zelenskiy on the replacement of Reznikov, a former lawyer who became defense minister in November 2021, a few months before Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.

Arakhamia did not say when the measure would be formalized.

Budanov, 37, is an enigmatic intelligence agent decorated for his role in classified operations who rose quickly through the ranks to head Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate.

The reshuffle coincides with Ukraine’s fears that Russia is planning a major new offensive this month. Ukraine is planning its own counteroffensive, but is waiting for Western supplies of main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.


Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, when asked on national television on Sunday night how likely a shakeup was, said: “Reznikov was extremely efficient in terms of communication with our partners. And this is a very important component in this case”.

As wartime defense minister, Reznikov, 56, fostered ties with Western defense officials and helped oversee the receipt of billions of dollars in military aid to help Kyiv defend against Russian invasion.

Podolyak said Reznikov’s “wonderful” personal relationships with the allies have helped with military supplies.

“Negotiations are not only mathematical formulas, but also personal relationships. And trust. Unfortunately, today we are losing some trust in ourselves,” Podolyak said.

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

During his tenure as defense minister, he spoke forcefully about wartime corruption, which he said was akin to “loitering.”

But in recent weeks, his own defense ministry has been embroiled in a corruption scandal over an army food contract that expected to pay grossly inflated prices. It provoked a public outcry.

One of his deputy ministers has been fired and two other senior officials have also left their posts since then.

The scandal led Zelenskiy to embark on a major shakeup that saw the departure of a series of regional governors, deputy ministers and other officials.

Reznikov gave a press conference on Sunday afternoon, in which he said that Ukraine was expecting a possible big Russian offensive this month, but that Kyiv had the resources available to hold them off.

He also said that his ministry’s anti-corruption department needed to be reviewed and had not done what it was supposed to do.

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