Ukraine’s Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov looks set to be replaced by the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence. The change, announced Sunday, February 5th, is a part of a major cabinet reshuffle following a corruption probe into high levels of government. David Arakhamia, parliamentary leader for Zelensky’s Servant of the People Party, stated on his Telegram platform that “War dictates changes in personnel policy.” Reznikov has stated that his replacement has come as a surprise, saying in response to Arakhamia’s announcement that “it was news to me.”
David Arakhamia stated that Ukraine’s security ministries and institutions need to be led by professional military and security staff, not politicians. He said Reznikov would be moved to the ministry of strategic industries, citing Reznikov’s skills in obtaining and organising the supply of Western weapons to aid Ukraine’s war effort.
Reznikov has stated that he will refuse this ministry if offered to him “because I do not have the expertise that would allow me to be the minister of … strategic industries.”
The reshuffle raises questions, since it comes amid a scandal triggered by two corruption probes. One of them involves the firing of a deputy minister for purchasing overpriced electrical generators, a key issue when the nation’s power grid is under sustained targeting by Russian missile strikes. The other—a defence ministry scandal—pertained to a contract to buy food for the Ukrainian army at prices three times the current rates, for which one deputy minister was also fired.
The end of January has seen a number of firings, as over a dozen high-level politicians and officials have been removed, including regional governors and a senior presidential office official. Analysts have stated that the purge comes as a part of Kyiv’s efforts to strengthen ties with the West and keep the trust of those who support Ukraine against the Russian invasion. It also represents a commitment to integrate with the EU, as a clearing up of corruption is a prerequisite to accession.
Additionally, in mid-January, the interior ministry of Ukraine lost several important figures in a helicopter crash, including the interior minister, a deputy minister, and a state secretary. The Ukrainian Parliament looks set to promote Ihor Klymenko, who is head of the national police, to replace the late minister Denys Monastyrsky. Klymenko has been the acting interim interior minister since his predecessor’s death.
A new Russian offensive is feared to be imminent, with Reznikov predicting it to commence by the end of the month. Kyiv claims that governmental reshuffles have been done in anticipation of this. “The enemy is preparing to advance. We are preparing to defend ourselves and return what belongs to us,” Arakhamia said. Despite his unwillingness to become minister of strategic industries, Reznikov said that he will still do what he can to support the war effort, saying that he “will do everything necessary for … victory.”
With increased Russian pressure on the city of Bakhmut, and with a fresh offensive expected soon, it is unknown if the substantial staff changes will damage Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, or if the move is exactly what the country needs.