Ukraine’s defense minister responds to reports he is being replaced

Kostan Nechyporenko and Jonny Hallam

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was asked to comment on rumors that he could be replaced.

“No official stays in office forever. Not a single one. So one should be ready at any time for this stage to end,” Reznikov told reporters in Kyiv on Sunday.

“The decision whether I will be or won’t be the Minister of Defense is made by one person – the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky,” Reznikov said.

“Therefore, I will make certain decisions only upon the decision of the President of Ukraine. And then, again, I will do what the President of Ukraine offers me, I will do everything for our victory.” he added.

The formal process to replace Ukraine’s defense minister requires that Zelensky first ask parliament to remove the minister. Ukrainian lawmakers then hold a vote on the proposal. Afterwards Zelensky will then propose a new defense minister which the lawmakers also need to vote to approve. This could happen in the coming days.

On Wednesday last week, officials from the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said they had charged the Ministry of Defense’s former head for procurement with embezzlement over the purchase of thousands of substandard protective vests.

The official spent the equivalent of $2.7 million on almost 3,000 “bulletproof vests” for the Ukrainian armed forces which were later found to be unable to “properly protect Ukrainian soldiers.”

The SBU said that the official was charged with “misappropriation, embezzlement or seizure of property through abuse of office,” obstruction of the armed forces, and “committing a criminal offense by a group of persons.”

The SBU said that the individual faced five to eight years in prison and had recalled the sub-standard body armor.

“In addition, the SBU is conducting investigative actions against other officials in the security and defense sector who may be involved in illegal activities that harm state security. This is a set of measures aimed at strengthening the defense capabilities of our state,” the SBU said at the time.

The charges come after Zelensky fired a slew of senior Ukrainian officials since late January amid a growing corruption scandal linked to the procurement of war-time supplies, in the biggest shakeup of his government since Russia’s invasion began.

CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva, Mick Krever and Jack Guy contributed reporting.

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