Crimean Tatar set to become Ukrainian defense minister at critical moment in conflict

Crimean Tatar set to become Ukrainian defense minister at critical moment in conflict

CNN reports:

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has tapped Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar, to become his next defense minister, replacing Oleksii Reznikov at a critical time for Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Umerov will have a bulging in-tray if and when the Ukrainian parliament approves his appointment.

The change in leadership comes as Ukraine’s relationships with allies and donors enter a new phase. Kyiv is trying to accelerate the training and deployment of F-16 combat planes and acquire a host of other equipment and weapons from its western allies to help push forward its counteroffensive.

But the Defense Ministry is also trying to develop an indigenous weapons production base in concert with western defense firms, including efforts to develop new long-range capabilities that could be used against targets inside Russian territory.

The Defense Minister is also Ukraine’s main interlocutor with western allies through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. Reznikov, had developed relationships with senior US and European officials through the Group. The next meeting of the Group is later this month.

But Umerov too has extensive experience as a negotiator. He has been closely involved in prisoner of war exchanges and helped to broker the Black Sea Grain Initiative. In that role, he repeatedly expressed skepticism that Russia would abide by the deal. He is currently the chairman of the State Property Fund, whose mission is to attract investment into Ukraine. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports:

The removal of Ukraine’s minister of defense after a flurry of reports of graft and financial mismanagement in his department underscores a pivotal challenge for President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wartime leadership: stamping out the corruption that had been widespread in Ukraine for years.

Official corruption was a topic that had been mostly taboo throughout the first year of the war, as Ukrainians rallied around their government in a fight for national survival. But Mr. Zelensky’s announcement Sunday night that he was replacing the defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, elevated the issue to the highest level of Ukrainian politics.

It comes at a pivotal moment in the war, as Ukraine prosecutes a counteroffensive in the country’s south and east that relies heavily on Western allies for military assistance. These allies have, since the beginning of the war, pressured Mr. Zelensky’s government to ensure that Ukrainian officials were not siphoning off some of the billions of dollars in aid that was flowing into Kyiv.

Just last week, the United States’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with three high-ranking Ukrainian officials to discuss efforts to stamp out wartime corruption. It comes as some lawmakers in the United States have used graft as an argument for limiting military aid to Ukraine. [Continue reading…]

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