Oleksii Reznikov will be dismissed in the coming days as Ukraine’s Defense Minister for several cases of corruption in public contracts for the army discovered in the last two weeks. This was announced on Sunday night by David Arakhamia, head of the Servant of the People parliamentary group, the party of the president, Volodimir Zelenski. Reznikov gave a press conference in kyiv hours before that already sounded like a farewell and in which he admitted that Zelensky would decide his future in the coming days. Reznikov, who has taken stock of his year in office, has ended the long appearance before the media by assuring that he would leave the Defense portfolio alone and that the level of stress he has experienced during the Russian invasion of Ukraine “is difficult to describe” .
Reznikov’s appearance has been an interrogation by the Ukrainian media about the three senior officials in his ministry who were dismissed for being involved in several alleged cases of corruption. They are Viacheslav Shapovalov, now a former deputy minister; Volodímir Tereschenko, former deputy director of international recruitment; and Bogdan Kmelnitski, former deputy director of supplies. The two contracts that have brought down Reznikov, until now one of the most important names in the Government, are a tender to purchase protective equipment for the troops and an award of a contract valued at 360 million euros in food for the soldiers with prices well above market prices. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office investigates them for alleged embezzlement of public funds.
Reznikov is not accused of having committed any illegality, but admitted that he was ultimately responsible for his team. He assured that they have strengthened the internal anti-corruption office of the Ministry of Defense and that the Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, will set up a committee to investigate possible fraud in the provision of international military aid. Reznikov added that the government will propose legal reform to make military contracts more transparent, although he conceded that, under martial law, many of these documents are classified. The still head of Defense justified that at the beginning of the invasion, last February, they had to accelerate the supply of material for the Ukrainian Armed Forces and that it was very difficult to comply with the award supervision systems.
Zelensky has not formally fired Reznikov, although he is expected to do so this week. His successor will be the current head of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence services, General Kirilo Budanov, one of the most popular and respected names in wartime Ukrainian society. The relief must be approved by the Rada. Zelenski dismissed 10 high-ranking executive and regional government officials last January for allegedly being involved in corruption cases, especially due to signs of bribery and client networks with businessmen who benefited from the public administration.
The General Prosecutor’s Office and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office carried out a wave of registrations last week in multiple cases of possible irregular actions among senior officials, from the tax agency, to state-owned companies and the Ministry of Defense itself. The drive in the fight against corruption in Ukraine, still an endemic disease in the country, coincides with the support of the European Commission to speed up Ukraine’s accession process to the European Union. To this end, the kyiv authorities have pledged to undertake a profound improvement in the systems for monitoring political and business corruption.
New position for Reznikov
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Reznikov has been a fundamental piece in the Government since Russia began the invasion of Ukraine, especially in the negotiations to obtain international military aid. His ability to deal closely with him, praised by his counterparts, and his knowledge of his country’s war needs, will make Reznikov assume another responsibility in the Executive. According to Arakhamia, he will be the Minister of Strategic Industries, a portfolio created in 2020. The spokesman for Zelensky’s parliamentary group wrote on his social networks that Reznikov’s experience will be key to coordinating the Ukrainian civil industry with the military. In fact, the still head of Defense has dedicated a good part of his press appearance to underlining the need to reactivate the industrial production of weapons.
The Defense Minister stated that his great success during the war was to ensure that Ukraine received 155-millimeter artillery from NATO in March and that the supply of its ammunition was guaranteed. His main failure, he admitted, was the last meeting of defense ministers of Ukraine’s allied countries, held in January in Ramstein (Germany). Reznikov explained that “communication with partners” left much to be desired at the appointment, and meant “a loss of reputation” for his ministry. This caused the deal to transfer the Leopard heavy tanks to be delayed for too long, precious time considering Russia finalizes a multi-front offensive this February, Reznikov confirmed.