“I think the ministry needs new approaches and other formats for interacting with the military and society as a whole,” Zelensky said.
Reznikov’s impeachment comes after months of speculation that he would be ousted. Although Reznikov has not been personally charged in the ongoing corruption probes and Zelensky did not cite wrongdoing in his announcement, several high-profile corruption allegations have plagued the Defense Ministry.
Earlier this year, the ministry faced retaliation for allegedly buying food for soldiers at inflated prices, and David Arakhamia, the leader of Zelensky’s faction in parliament, publicly announced – wrongly to the time – that Reznikov would be removed from office. Then, last month, Ukrainian media suggested the ministry had engaged in a bribery scheme by buying jackets for the military – allegations Reznikov vehemently denied.
But as Ukraine depends on huge amounts of foreign aid, Kyiv is eager to show its Western partners that it now has zero tolerance for corruption. On Saturday, Ukraine’s state security services charged billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky with fraud and money laundering. Kolomoisky previously owned PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest savings and loan bank, was nationalized in 2016 to avoid insolvency after $5.5 billion in assets disappeared. Kolomoisky also served as governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region and strongly supported Zelensky in his bid for the presidency in 2019.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Reznikov insisted he had worked to root out corruption and that the department was operating with greater oversight and more competitive procurement procedures.
“My resignation is not related to any corruption scandal: the decision was taken by the president for other reasons,” Reznikov said, adding that he had completed the tasks assigned to him. “The main directions of the reforms have been defined and the process of receiving new weapons in Ukraine has become stable. Our path to NATO membership is approved.”
In the statement, Reznikov cited advances in the fight against corruption.
“Despite the war and the critical challenges facing Ukraine, we have managed to do a lot to fight corruption in the ministry,” he wrote. “We have reformed procurement procedures by creating two procurement agencies: a defense agency and a resource agency. This will help us avoid unnecessary links in the supply chain and minimize possible corruption risks.
“We have also diversified the food supply within the Ministry of Defence,” he continued. “When I was appointed minister, there was only one supplier. Thanks to our efforts, we now have five. We have created an independent public body: the Anti-Corruption Council under the Ministry of Defence, which includes volunteers and renowned journalists. We have consistently applied the standards of NATO friendly countries and used the experience of the United States, Britain and NATO.”
Due to the ministry’s new vigilance, Reznikov said, “several senior Defense Ministry officials were removed from their posts and investigated.”
In addition to fighting corruption, kyiv is also under pressure to produce results in its counter-offensive, which Reznikov acknowledged in an interview with The Post in the spring may not live up to Western expectations and cause “emotional disappointment”.
A few months after the start of the counterattack, Ukrainian troops face a huge challenge in the south of the country, where Russian forces have prepared complex defensive positions and mined large swaths of territory. Progress has been made in recent weeks, with Ukrainian forces claiming to take control of the strategic village of Robotyne. But the operation has been slow and Russian forces are simultaneously attempt to recapture occupied territory they lost last year in the northeast.
In his resignation letter on Monday, Reznikov claimed to have succeeded in rearming the Ukrainian army. When he began his duties, he writes, the partners even refused to supply Ukraine with man-portable air defense systems known as Stingers. Since then, he said, an air coalition has been formed and Ukraine has obtained “modern tanks, missile/missile defense equipment, anti-aircraft missiles, armored vehicles, artillery, MLRS and other types of modern Western-style weapons”.
“The key tasks that were set out when I was appointed to this position have been accomplished,” he wrote, citing procurement and digital transformation reforms in the ministry.
Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a Ukrainian NGO, said in a Facebook post that Umerov had “strong strategic vision” and was a “skilled negotiator”.
Umerov and his family are Crimean Tatars, a majority Muslim minority group from the peninsula invaded and illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. While in parliament, he co-chaired an initiative to retake Crimea from Russian control. He was also involved in key negotiations related to the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
“The very fact that a Crimean Tatar has been appointed defense minister is a powerful message to the world as Ukraine looks to end the war,” Kaleniuk wrote.
In a message, she added that Reznikov had “delayed any decision-making” on reforms in the ministry and “unfortunately did not resign” after the food purchase scandal. Her dismissal was a “matter of time” after the latest corruption allegations, she said.
“Reznikov’s resignation is a good sign,” she said. “It’s a sign that public pressure in Ukraine is working despite the full-scale invasion.”
There is speculation that Reznikov – who speaks English and has built strong relationships with Ukraine’s partners – could become Ukraine’s ambassador to London.
The post was vacated in July when Zelensky fired Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko. His dismissal came shortly after, he remarked by Zelensky about expressing gratitude for British military aid as “unhealthy” sarcasm.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office declined to comment Monday on possible appointments.
In his statement to the Post, Reznikov thanked Ukraine’s international supporters.
“I am proud to have been able to serve Ukraine in the darkest hours for our State,” he wrote, “and I feel gratitude to the peoples and governments of our allied countries for the huge and invaluable help they bring to Ukraine”.
Serhiy Morgunov from Warsaw contributed to this report.