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Ukraine’s Zelenskiy moves to replace wartime defence minister

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KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday he had decided to dismiss Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov from his post and would ask parliament this week to replace him with Rustem Umerov, head of Ukraine’s main privatisation fund.

The announcement, made in his nightly video address to the nation, sets the stage for the biggest shakeup of Ukraine’s defence establishment during the war launched by Russia in February 2022.

Reznikov, who was named defence minister in November 2021, has helped secure billions of dollars of Western military aid to help the war effort, but been dogged by graft allegations surrounding his ministry that he described as smears.

“I’ve decided to replace the Minister of Defense of Ukraine. Oleksii Reznikov has been through more than 550 days of full-scale war,” Zelenskiy said.

“I believe the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society as a whole.”

The change of defence minister must be approved by parliament, but is likely to be supported by a majority of lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada. Zelenskiy said he expected parliament to approve Umerov’s appointment.

Umerov, a 41-year-old ex-lawmaker who is a Crimean Tatar, has headed Ukraine’s State Property Fund since September 2022 and has played a role in sensitive wartime negotiations on, for instance, the Black Sea grain deal.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Anna Pruchnicka; Editing by Diane Craft)

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