Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov holds up military jackets during press conference on August 28, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Reznikov gave press conference after a series of scandals involving the Ministry of Defense's procurement of food and ammunition at boosted prices. (Photo by Vitalii Nosach/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)


Ukraine defence minister may be removed from post amid corruption allegations


Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksii Reznikov is, according to Ukrainian media, on the verge of being removed from his job.

Reznikov is expected to leave his post in the first week of September amid rising pressure over new corruption allegations.

According to Ukrainska Pravda, sources in the Cabinet of Ministers said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is considering other candidates for the Minister of Defence, with the current head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine Rustem Umerov being the favourite.

There have been accusations about corruption in the defence ministry for several months now, with the scandal of the purchase of overpriced supplies for the Armed Forces in February 2023 among the most notable. Two of Reznikov’s deputies had to resign at the time but the minister himself was kept in place.

In August, ZN.UA published an investigation revealing that the defence ministry had signed a contract with a Turkish company for the supply of winter clothing for the military in autumn 2022. Jackets ordered as “camouflage” turned into “winter air protective” coats during transit and tripled in cost. Helmets for soldiers were also allegedly bought at exorbitant prices.

On August 25, Ukrainska Pravda published its own investigation, uncovering that one of the owners of a company involved in the winter-clothing contract was the nephew of Hennady Kasai, an MP from the Ukraine’s Servant of the People party.

Reznikov denied any wrongdoing and said he would step down if suspicions that he bought summer uniforms rather than winter outfits were proven true. If the allegations were not proven, Reznikov said Ukrainska Pravda journalist Mykhailo Tkach, who wrote about the investigation, and MP Anastasia Radina should resign. Radina, a Servant of the People MP  and the head of the anti-corruption committee, had said that she would turn to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine regarding the allegations.

On August 10, Ukrainska Pravda claimed that Zelenskyy was looking for a replacement defence minister. A week later, Reznikov said that the position was “temporary” for him and he could resign at his own discretion. Subsequently, Zelenskyy said in August 23 that he would be able to comment on personnel decisions after signing relevant decrees.

Yaroslav Zhelezniak, a Holos party MP, said on Telegram that Reznikov could be moved to the post of Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK.

Earlier in August, Zelenskyy fired all regional military recruitment directors after an officer, Yevhen Borisov, was discovered to have up to $5 million in assets stashed in his mother’s name in Spain. The Ukrainian president stated that wounded military veterans would replace the recruitment staff.

“Corruption in military recruiting will be eliminated. The heads of all regional recruitment centres will be fired and replaced by brave warriors who have lost their health on the frontlines but maintained their dignity,” Zelenskyy tweeted.

Ukraine has been dogged by corruption issues, partly the product of its troubled relationship with Russia. The fight against such wrongdoing was central to the election of Zelenskyy.

The 2022 Russian invasion has pushed Ukraine closer to the West and intensified its fight against corruption, helped by increased scrutiny from the West, which wants to ensure its aid for Kyiv is not misused.