KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that defense minister Oleksii Reznikov will be replaced this week with Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar lawmaker.
Zelenskyy made the announcement on his official Telegram account, writing that new leadership was needed after Reznikov went through "more than 550 days of full-scale war.”
Later in his nightly address, Zelenskyy said he believes “that the Ministry needs new approaches and different formats of interaction both with the military and with society."
“The Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine is well acquainted with this person, and Umerov does not require additional introductions. I expect support for this candidacy from parliament,” the president told the nation.
Umerov, 41, a politician with the opposition Holos party, has served as head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine since September 2022. He was involved in the exchange of prisoners of war, political prisoners, children and civilians, as well as the evacuation of civilians from occupied territories. Umerov was also part of the Ukrainian delegation in negotiations with Russia over the U.N.-backed grain deal.
Resnikov’s removal comes after a scandal around the Ministry of Defense’s procurement of military jackets. In August, Ukrainian investigative journalists reported that the materials were purchased at a price three times higher than normal and that instead of winter jackets, summer ones were ordered. In the customs documents from the supplier, the jackets were priced at $29 per unit, but the Ministry of Defense paid $86 per unit. Reznikov denied the allegations during a news conference last week.
U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware on Sunday that he was aware Zelenskyy had replaced his defense chief. Asked if he had any comment, Biden said, “Not publicly.” The U.S. Department of Defense also declined to comment.
Zelenskyy's announcement came after two people were hospitalized following a 3½-hour Russian drone barrage on a port in Ukraine’s Odesa region on Sunday, officials said.
The attack on the Reni seaport comes a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to meet with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the resumption of food shipments from Ukraine under a Black Sea grain agreement that Moscow broke off from in July.
Russian forces fired 25 Iranian-made Shahed drones along the Danube River in the early hours of Sunday, 22 of which were shot down by air defenses, the Ukrainian air force said on Telegram.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, described the assault as part of a Russian drive "to provoke a food crisis and hunger in the world."
Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement that the attack was aimed at fuel storage facilities used to supply military equipment.
Putin and Erdogan’s long-awaited meeting is due to take place in Sochi on Russia’s southwest coast on Monday.
Turkish officials have confirmed that the pair will discuss renewing the Black Sea grain initiative, which the Kremlin pulled out of six weeks ago.
The deal — brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 — had allowed nearly 33 million metric tons (36 million tons) of grain and other commodities to leave three Ukrainian ports safely despite Russia’s war.
However, Russia broke away from the agreement after claiming that a parallel deal promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer hadn’t been honored.
Moscow complained that restrictions on shipping and insurance hampered its agricultural trade, even though it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.
The Sochi summit follows talks between the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers on Thursday, during which Russia handed over a list of actions that the West would have to take in order for Ukraine’s Black Sea exports to resume.
Erdogan has indicated sympathy with Putin’s position. In July, he said Putin had “certain expectations from Western countries” over the Black Sea deal and that it was “crucial for these countries to take action in this regard.”
Elsewhere in Ukraine, three people were killed in two separate attacks by Russian shelling in the Donetsk area Sunday. An 85-year-old man was named among the victims after being crushed by the rubble of his own home, Ukraine’s Prosecutors' Office reported.
A 36-year-old man was also killed in another Russian attack on Ukraine’s Kherson region.
Ukrainian prosecutors announced Sunday that they had opened a war crimes investigation into the death of a police officer killed by Russian shelling on the town of Seredyna-Buda on Saturday afternoon.
Two other police officers and one civilian were wounded during the attack, which hit Ukraine’s north-eastern Sumy region.
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