Oleksii Reznikov will stay in his position as Ukraine’s Defense Minister despite intense speculation over the last few weeks about his future.
Asked by Reuters during an interview on Feb.15 if he expected to continue in his post for the foreseeable future, he replied: "Yes, it was the decision of my president."
The statement puts to bed a weeks-long saga over the 56-year-old’s position.
I thought he was being replaced after the NATO meeting?
According to two parliamentarians who spoke to Kyiv Post on condition of anonymity earlier this week, a decision had been made to replace Reznikov after the NATO meeting in Brussels.
“Reznikov will be replaced,” one of them said. “It has been decided.”
The issue of who was to replace him had not been resolved but lawmakers were working on a new bill that would allow a non-civilian to head the defense ministry, something that under current legislation is prohibited.
One of the parliamentarians said: “The president’s office is undecided on (replacement) candidates. Opinions are divided – some officials say that in wartime, the post should be held by a military man, while others say it should be an effective manager.”
One of the names rumored to be Reznikov’s replacement was Kyrylo Budanov, the current head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, who is a military major general.
So what changed?
President Zelensky’s mind, though the exact reason why is unclear.
A parliamentary source simply said: “The President has changed his mind and decided Reznikov should stay.”
It may simply be that Reznikov is indispensable. The 56-year-old is one of the best-known faces of the country’s war effort and has played a key role in securing much-needed weapons and support from Ukraine’s Western allies.
The speculation over his future came just ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion and a renewed offensive from the Kremlin and replacing him would have undoubtedly hampered Ukraine’s efforts to prepare.
Why was his position in doubt in the first place?
Although he has not been accused of any personal wrongdoing, the ministry which he has headed since November 2021 has recently been rocked by corruption scandals.
His deputy was forced to resign in late January after the ministry was accused of signing food contracts at prices two to three times higher than current rates for basic foodstuffs.
On Feb. 5, senior lawmaker David Arakhamia said Reznikov would be moved from his current role and appointed minister for strategic industries.
But Arakhamia appeared to roll back the shock announcement the next day, saying the replacement would not take place this week, and a source told Kyiv Post that they didn’t think Reznikov would take up the position potentially on offer.
Reznikov himself said on Feb. 5 that he had not been offered a new role and would refuse it if he was.
The following day, President Zelensky urged Ukrainians to refrain from “spreading any rumors or other pseudo-information,” but confirmed that change was under way.
Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko said that Reznikov’s replacement was postponed following a “rushed” announcement.
Reznikov himself previously said he will do everything in his power to assist his successor.
In response to a question from Kyiv Post during a press conference on Feb. 5 about his possible future role in helping bring this about, he added: “According to the decision of the President and with the support of the parliament, anyone who will be the minister of defense will receive my support, advice, consultations and personal introduction to those (international) ministers of defense with whom I have personal relations and communications, if desired.”
Earlier this month in exclusive comments to Kyiv Post, Reznikov said he would continue to fight for Ukraine “regardless of status or position.”
He added: “There are still planes on my wish list to Santa. I believe in the victory of Ukraine, and I will do everything for this.”
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