In an exclusive interview with Kyiv Post, Doctor of Political Science at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Petro Oleshchuk, explores the reasons for recent personnel changes in the state leadership; the potential the resignation of Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, and the level of tolerance to corruption in Ukrainian society.

On Feb. 5, the head of the Servant of the People part, David Arakhamia, announced that Reznikov would be replaced and become a minister for strategic industries. His place is set to be taken by the current head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, Kyrylo Budanov. A day later, Arakhamia said that the issue of replacing the defense minister was not yet on the agenda.

What would you say are the reasons for recent personnel changes in Ukraine’s government?

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These resignations come on the back of corruption scandals, and responding promptly in times of war is essential. Appropriate personnel decisions have been made to prevent the growth of public discontent.

Will Reznikov hold on to his position in your opinion?

There are serious reasons for his possible resignation. Several corrupt officials in high positions in the ministry of defense have been exposed, and this issue is being discussed even in the ruling party. Still, according to latest information, this decision has been postponed.

According to my information, the most seriously discussed candidate is Kyrylo Budanov, head of the military intelligence of Ukraine. According to legal requirements, the minister should be a civil person. Budanov should be dismissed from military service to take the position of minister and this will require additional time and preparations. The postponement of this decision may also be related to preparations for the Ramstein meeting.

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Could the participation of a minister whose deputies have been linked to corruption harm Ukraine’s image at the Ramstein meeting?

It's hard for me to comment on this issue. For some reason, [Reznikov’s] resignation has been postponed, so there is something behind that. In this situation, political responsibility requires the resignation of the minister.

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Reznikov's replacement is likely to be approved, especially since this issue is being discussed publicly. Of course, there will be many questions to the next minister of defense. Budanov has public support, but as the head of military intelligence, the position of minister is more political and does not directly relate to military operations.

Do you think Budanov has a plan to combat corruption in the ministry?

I think he has a plan to overcome corruption, but the question is how to implement it. For any minister, the team is essential. First of all, the minister will need to replace the corrupt people in the ministry’s key positions who continue to work there.

Do you think Budanov has a team?

It's hard to say. On the one hand, he seems to be a public person, but not enough to draw conclusions.

Recently, a deputy in the Ministry for Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development was also involved in corruption, so the question remains: are ministers responsible for the actions of their subordinates?

Usually, they are, at least in terms of political responsibility, which means resignation. As for criminal liability, it is a matter of having evidence from law enforcement agencies. This is European practice, but it is very difficult in Ukraine to follow.

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Does Ukrainian society tolerate corruption?

A few years ago, it was common practice for society, and a change in perception takes time. In terms of zero tolerance for corruption, we are probably on the way, but not at the endpoint.

Has the attitude of Ukrainians towards corruption changed due to the war?

If you look at the last ten years, there have been extraordinary shifts in society, but a fundamental change in public opinion takes time.

 

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