Ukraine to replace defence minister in first major reshuffle since invasion

Ukraine defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov is set to be replaced by Kyiv’s head of military intelligence, legislators in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party said on Sunday.

The planned reshuffle will move Reznikov to another senior government position, according to several MPs. Maj Gen Kyrylo Budanov will become minister of defence, they said.

The change will be put to a vote in Ukraine’s parliament over the next few days, reports suggested.

If confirmed, it would be the biggest shake-up in the Zelenskyy administration since Russia’s president Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year.

Other senior officials who are currently in acting roles are likely to be confirmed in office.

David Arakhamia, parliamentary head of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, said: “War dictates personnel policy. Time and circumstances call for strengthening and regrouping.”

“Oleksiy Reznikov is being transferred within the government to the position of minister for strategic industries to strengthen military-industrial co-operation, which is absolutely logical, given his expertise,” Arakhamia said. He pointed to Reznikov’s experience over the past year in securing weaponry from Ukraine’s western backers.

Head of Ukraine military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov © AFP via Getty Images

Budanov, a 37-year-old former special forces operative, has been head of the military intelligence unit since 2020.

Zelenskyy has not commented on the planned reshuffle or new appointments. Some of the moves will require the president to formally submit the candidacies for approval. His party holds a shaky majority in parliament and regularly secures votes from allied parties.

Ukraine’s defence ministry secures weaponry and supplies for the army, while military operations are independently drawn up and implemented by the general staff, led by Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief.

Arakhamia said legislators would promote the stand-in head of the interior ministry, Ihor Klymenko. A career police officer, Klymenko took over as acting minister last month after his predecessor, Denys Monastyrsky, was killed in a helicopter crash outside of Kyiv.

Vasyl Malyuk, named acting head of Ukraine’s SBU state security service last July, is to be appointed its chief, Arakhamia said.

“Law enforcement agencies at this stage should be headed not by politicians, but by cadre law enforcement officers,” Arakhamia said.

“The enemy is preparing to advance. We are preparing to defend ourselves and return what belongs to us,” he said referring to territory under Russian occupation and to recent reports that Russia’s invading forces are preparing a new offensive.

During a press conference on Sunday, Reznikov defended his record as minister, outlined steps taken to curb corruption, and said the decision was up to the president.

“I am on the team . . . I will do everything necessary for our victory,” Reznikov said.

Reznikov, a lawyer turned politician, was made defence minister just over a year ago. He has led Kyiv’s successful efforts in securing the heavy weaponry from the west that has proven key in repelling Russia’s faltering invasion.

But he has faced rising criticism in recent days from anti-corruption activists following a scandal at his ministry in which some of his subordinates have been arrested or charged by law enforcement.

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