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Ukraine Defence Minister likely to be replaced as Russia steps up offensive ahead of war anniversary

A file image of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bucha (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DefenceU)

Some intense political churning continues in Kyiv even as Russia claims of making significant military gains and tactical advances into eastern Ukraine, especially around the industrial city of Bakhmut.

With the Russia-Ukraine war nearing the one-year mark, Ukrainian legislators revealed Sunday that Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov – long considered a trusted lieutenant of Zelensky and a leading figure since Moscow began its ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine on February 24, 2022 – is set to be replaced this week.

Even though the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is yet to formally announce the major rejig, speculation is swirling over Reznikov’s replacement with the name of the current Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine already making rounds in the Kyiv political circles.

The decision on personnel changes in Zelensky’s cabinet was made after a closed meeting following some high-profile corruption scandals – including over the purchase of food for military personnel – exposures, searches and arrests, recently.

Ukrainian IT entrepreneur, public figure and senior lawmaker David Arakhamia – another close aide of Zelensky – took to the Telegram messaging app stating that “war dictates personnel policies”.

He revealed that Reznikov, who became Defence Minister in November 2021, is being transferred to the position of Minister for Strategic Industries to strengthen military-industrial cooperation with 37-year-old defence intelligence chief Major General Kyrylo Budanov ready to take his place.

As the country remains mired in conflict and continues to receive massive funding from the West, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine has conducted a series of investigations over the past few months arresting several officials for embezzlement of funds.

Vowing action against the corrupt, Zelensky has said that those whose actions or behaviour violate the principle of justice, will not be spared.

“I want this to be clear: There will be no return to what used to be in the past,” said the Ukrainian President last month.

Interstingly, Reznikov himself assured on Sunday that he is ready to leave the minister’s chair if necessary.

As fierce battle rages in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, Reznikov stated that Kyiv expects a major Russian offensive before the symbolic date of February 24 to mark the war anniversary.

“We still, of course, expect possible offensives from the Russians, because it’s February, they like symbolism – February 24 will be a year since this invasion began, the open stage of the Ukrainian-Russian war, which began in 2014. That’s why we expect this pressure,” he told reporters on Sunday.