Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has denied rumors that he is set to be replaced. However, according to one politician, Reznikov will be replaced by Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the GUR military intelligence agency,
If the rumors are true, it will be the highest-profile reshuffle since the beginning of the conflict in February last year. The reshuffle would occur when the Ukrainian defense ministry is under increased scrutiny over an unfolding corruption scandal.
Throughout much of the war, Reznikov has been one of the most well-recognized faces in the Ukrainian government on the international stage. Losing such a well-known figure could come as a blow to the Ukrainian war effort.
Will the Ukrainian defense minister be replaced?
Davyd Arakhamia, a member of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People party, released a statement saying that Oleksii Reznikov would be transferred to another ministry and replaced with Kyrylo Budanov.
“War dictates changes in personnel policy,” commented Arakhamia on the Telegram messaging app. He also said that Reznikov would be made minister of strategic industries instead.
Reznikov has thus far dismissed rumors surrounding his imminent removal from the defense ministry. On Sunday he commented that any changes would be the prerogative of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Then, Reznikov told the Ukrainian Fakty ICTV online media that he was not aware of any plans for a reshuffle.
“If I suddenly received such an offer from the president of Ukraine or the prime minister, I would refuse it, because I do not have the expertise,” Reznikov reportedly said, referring to rumors that he would be moved to another ministry.
On Monday, Arakhamia commented that no reshuffle would take place this week. Meanwhile, Mariana Bezuhla, deputy head of the national security and defense committee in the Ukrainian parliament, has said that any decisions regarding staff in the defense ministry would be postponed ahead of an anticipated Russian offensive, expected in late February.
Rumors of a reshuffle are circulating just weeks after a government corruption scandal began to unfold in Ukraine. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine was compelled to open two investigations, one of the defense ministry led by Reznikov and the other of the infrastructure ministry.
The investigation of the defense ministry concerns allegations of war profiteering. In particular, members of the defense ministry have been accused of deliberately purchasing military rations at inflated prices.
Reznikov did not personally sign the defense food and catering contract, which is worth 13 billion hryvnias (€326 million) and has drawn intense scrutiny. However, the defense minister has come under fire from members of the Ukrainian media and corruption watchdogs for failing to stamp out corruption from right under his nose.
According to Ukrainian media sources, Reznikov has denied claims of corruption as a “false story” and dismissed the accusations as a smear campaign designed to dash confidence in the defense ministry.
“Statements that the Ministry of Defense ‘stole’ or ‘tried to steal’ billions are complete nonsense. It’s just that someone found out about additional checks and decided to launch an information attack,” Reznikov said.