Ukrainian parliament clears way for appointment of new defence minister

FILE PHOTO: Rustem Umerov attends a meeting in the Ukrainian president's office in Kyiv

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukrainian parliament approved the removal of Oleksii Reznikov as defence minister and Rustem Umerov as head of the main privatisation agency on Tuesday, clearing the way for Umerov to take over from Reznikov.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday he was sacking Reznikov and proposed Umerov to replace him. To do so, he required parliament to approve their removal from their current roles and to support Umerov's appointment as defence minister.

Parliament completed the first stage of the process in two separate votes on Tuesday, and is expected to back Umerov's appointment in a vote on Wednesday. Reznikov resigned on Monday.

The moves amount to the biggest shakeup of the defence establishment in 18 months of war with Russia.

Umerov, a Crimean Tatar and former lawmaker, had headed the State Property Fund since September 2022 and is widely credited with turning round an institution that has frequently been mired in corruption scandals. He also relaunched sales of state property, raising record proceeds for the state during the war.

In a Facebook post, he listed the fund's achievements over the past year, and thanked those who had supported him.

"New, even more important challenges lie ahead. We need to be as efficient as possible, because every hour of delay is the life of our defenders," he wrote.

The outcome of the vote to remove Umerov, 41, from his current post was confirmed by several lawmakers who attended the parliamentary session.

Reznikov has been at the forefront of Kyiv's lobbying for Western weapons to fight Russia's invasion. But his departure after months of corruption allegations against his ministry - though not against him personally - is not expected to have a big impact on military operations.

Confirming parliament had voted to remove Reznikov, the Defence Ministry hailed his work and listed some of the weapons Ukraine has received since Russia's full-scale invasion.

"He held this office for 22 months and made the impossible possible by ensuring large-scale arms supplies for the #UAarmy from the free world," it said on social media platform X.

It added that F-16 fighter jets, which Kyiv has not received so far, "will make Ukraine's victory inevitable."

(Reporting by Anna Pruchnicka, Editing by Timothy Heritage)