Zelenskyj dismisses Resnikov: Umerov is to become the new defense minister

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced that he will sack his Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and has proposed Rustem Umerov, the current head of the State Property Fund, as his successor. This information was announced by Zelenskyy during a video message on Sunday evening. Reznikov’s departure from office has been expected for some time.

Rustem Umerov, a businessman and investor of Crimean Tatar origin, has campaigned steadily for the return of the Crimean Peninsula, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. Although his position as defense minister does not necessarily give him any say in actual military operations – that responsibility rests with Zelensky and the generals – Umerov’s primary role would be to provide military funding, equipment and supplies.

Background information shows that Umerov’s family, like many Crimean Tatars, was deported during the rule of Joseph Stalin. Umerov himself has received a scholarship from the US FLEX program and is known for his expertise in finance. After his parliamentary activity from 2019 to 2022, he took over the management of the state asset management. He is also Vice-Chair of the Crimea Platform, an annual forum on Crimea’s reintegration. Zelenskyj presented him with an award for his services in August 2021.

Reznikov’s ouster was long awaited

As for Reznikov, he served 550 days as Minister of Defense since the beginning of Russia’s war of aggression. Zelenskyj mentioned on Sunday that a realignment of the ministry was necessary. There has been speculation about Reznikov’s resignation in the past, especially after several controversies in his ministry. One of these allegations was the alleged embezzlement of funds in the construction of barracks.

In the last few days there has been increased discussion in the media about Resnikov’s imminent dismissal. Reznikov stressed he was ready to go, but a suitable replacement would have to be found first. In one of his last interviews as Secretary of Defense, he stated that Ukraine has received approximately $100 billion in military aid from Western allies, with nearly $60 billion coming from the United States.

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