Following allegations of corruption against the Ministry of Defense, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appointed a new defense minister. Olexiy Reznikov submitted his letter of resignation on Monday and was replaced by Rustem Umerov, who was involved in the negotiations on the Black Sea Grain Initiative, among other things. Europe's press discusses the reasons for the move.

An internationally important signal

Umerov's appointment has numerous advantages, says France’s Mediapart:

“Rustem Umerov was an opposition MP and is known for his negotiating skills. ... And he has the ear of several heads of state, including Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Mohammed bin Salman. This is a network that will play an important role: many consider the defense minister's main job to be to manage Kyiv's relations with its international partners and oversee the delivery of billions of euros worth of military aid. An important detail: Rustem Umerov is a Crimean Tatar. ... His appointment probably also sends the signal that Kyiv does not intend to let Crimea fall.”

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Crimea now non-negotiable

Russian Novaya Gazeta Europe's Ukraine correspondent, Olga Musafirova also sees Umerov's appointment as a message to Moscow:

“The appointment of a Crimean Tatar to the key post of defense minister for the first time since the country gained independence sends a serious message from Kyiv, particularly in these times of war: Crimea will never, under any circumstances, become the object of negotiations with Russia or the West. ... And under Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, Turkey becomes even more strategic and trusted as a strategic partner.”

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Recruitment is a particularly sensitive issue

If Reznikov had to leave it was because of misconduct among his staff, Finland’s Ilta-Sanomat explains:

“The main reason is allegations of corruption at the Ministry of Defense, which allegedly paid too much for some certain purchases. The culprits were apparently Reznikov's subordinates, not Reznikov himself. Recently, President Zelensky dismissed regional officials who were charged with recruiting soldiers because they were suspected of taking bribes in exchange for letting people dodge the draft. The anger this arouses in a country struggling for its very survival is understandable.” 

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The fight against corruption is gaining importance

The Irish Examiner sees Reznikov's removal as a sensible move, especially considering the mood in the country:

“With Ukraine having applied for membership of NATO and the European Union, the issue of corruption (a subject which has long dogged the country) has become a matter of grave concern to a Ukrainian public which has become increasingly sensitive to such issues, especially as the war drags on. Difficult situations require strong leadership and decision-making and the Ukrainian hierarchy must be willing to fight internal corruption as it continues to defend its lands.”

Also a warning to the Danish government

For Denmark’s Politiken, Reznikov's dismissal is proof of a healthy civil society:

If there is one positive thing to be said about the revelations of corruption, it is that they come largely from the Ukrainians themselves. Even during a bloody war, therefore, there is a civil society that insists on the rule of law that the politicians have promised it. And that is an essential prerequisite for EU membership. ... But it does not change the fact that the corruption revelations are also a reminder to the Danish government to ensure that Denmark's multi-billion euro aid to Ukraine is used for the right purposes.”

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