New Defence Minister and other appointments of the week

New Defence Minister and other appointments of the week

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced that autumn 2023 should be a time to strengthen Ukraine's defence capabilities. In recent weeks, the President has been focusing on domestic arms production and the fight against corruption.

On September 5, the Verkhovna Rada supported the resignation of Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, which triggered a whole series of personnel changes in Ukrainian state institutions and committees.

In this article, we explain who was appointed and who these people were before.

Minister of Defence: Oleksii Reznikov → Rustem Umierov

Oleksii Reznikov has been in office since November 2021. During the report on his work, Reznikov noted:

  • Ukraine received about $100 billion in military aid;
  • He and his team worked on more than 160 official international events;
  • The army has created a reserve of 200,000 bulletproof vests and more than 120,000 helmets, supplied over 1.2 million sets of winter uniforms and 2.5 million sets of summer uniforms;
  • 287 NATO standards have been implemented;
  • About 300 models of new weapons and equipment have been adopted;
  • More than 30 models of Ukrainian drones have been put into service;
  • Production has increased more than 100 times and is still growing;
  • Procurement and military medical commissions have been reformed.

"22 months ago (when appointed to the post — ed.), I announced my work priorities. They formed the basis for the Ministry of Defence's action programme. The essence of this programme is de facto accession to NATO... If we assess the situation by its essence, Ukraine's integration into NATO has de facto taken place. An important stage has been completed. In this regard, I am asking the Verkhovna Rada to resign," Reznikov concluded from the parliamentary podium on September 5, 2023.

However, in addition to positive results and the fact that Ukraine has been resisting a full-scale Russian invasion for over 550 days, in 2023, the Ministry's work was also associated with high-profile corruption scandals.

On January 21, published an article by journalist Yurii Nikolov about the inflated prices of food purchased by the Ministry for the military. The Ministry of Defence purchased eggs at ₴17 per egg, while the retail price was around ₴7. Potatoes were ordered at ₴22 per kilo, while the retail price was ₴8-9.

Following the publicity, former Deputy Minister of Defence Viacheslav Shapovalov resigned, and the former head of the Ministry's public procurement department, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, was fired. In June, law enforcement officers served them with embezzlement charges. The Ministry returned public control over food and property procurement.

In August, published new procurement documents, this time on jackets for the military. The Ministry of Defence signed a contract with the Turkish company Vector Avia for the purchase of winter jackets. On the way from Türkiye, the documents changed the name of the product from "camouflage" to "winter air protection" jackets, and the price increased from $29 to $86 each.

Reznikov suggested that the understatement of prices in the Turkish documents was related to tax evasion in Türkiye, and he was willing to bet that the jackets were purchased as winter jackets. The Anti-Corruption Council confirmed the Minister's claims.

An investigation by Ukrainska Pravda found that the Turkish company that sold the jackets belonged to the nephew of Hennadii Kasai, a Servant of the People MP and member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security. Reznikov did not comment on this.

During the final report in the Verkhovna Rada on September 5, MPs asked him about the procurement, and he replied that "these are fake, far-fetched stories, and there are no criminal cases regarding these facts."

These are not the only corruption stories. Just last week, it became known that the Ministry of Defence purchased one million low-quality food packages for the Armed Forces worth ₴430 million. This was reported by the Prosecutor General's Office, and the delivery of the food was foiled.

On September 4, journalists published an investigation according to which, in December 2022, the Ministry of Defence signed a deal worth ₴807 million for 55 HAWK drone systems. They were bought from a company partly owned by the wife of former MP Boryslav Rosenblat. Only one of the four systems delivered to the military has been successfully tested.

Reznikov is likely to be appointed as Ukraine's ambassador to the UK, as reported by MP Yaroslav Zhelezniak. The previous ambassador, Vadym Prystaiko, was dismissed by Volodymyr Zelenskyy on July 21, 2023.

Leadership change: Rustem Umierov

"The Ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society at large. Now Rustem Umierov should lead the Ministry, and he does not need any additional introductions," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. We will introduce him anyway.

Rustem Umierov has a degree in economics and finance and began his career at the telecommunications company Lifecell. In 2013, he founded the ASTEM investment company and the ASTEM Foundation, which are donors to the Ukrainian Emerging Leaders programme at Stanford University to train Ukrainian politicians, entrepreneurs, and NGO leaders.

Political activity

In 2019, the businessman entered politics as a member of parliament from the Voice political party. During his parliamentary activities, he defended the rights of Qırımtatarlar and the preservation of the culture and representation of the indigenous people of Qırım in Ukraine. In particular, in December 2020, Umierov became a co-chair of the Crimean Platform parliamentary association. In 2021, he initiated a bill to abolish the Crimean Free Economic Zone. He was also Deputy Head of the Permanent Delegation of Ukraine to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Role in negotiations and exchanges

After the beginning of the full-scale war, Rustem Umierov joined the Ukrainian delegation in negotiations with Russia and was involved in the process of exchanging prisoners.

On September 21, 2022, one of the largest prisoner exchanges took place — Ukraine returned 215 servicemen, including Azovstal defenders and commanders of the Mariupol garrison. At the same time, Russia handed over to Saudi Arabia ten captured foreign volunteers who had taken part in hostilities on the side of Ukraine. Rustem Umierov was with them and accompanied the exchange process.

State Property Fund

Since September 2022, Umierov has been heading the State Property Fund. The previous head of the Fund, Dmytro Sennychenko, was put on the wanted list by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. According to the investigation, he was the head of a criminal organisation involved in the embezzlement of more than half a billion hryvnias from Odesa Port Plant JSC and United Mining and Chemical Company JSC in 2019-2021.

Rustem Umierov has not been involved in any corruption scandals during his tenure as the Head of the Fund. He reported that during his tenure, the Fund managed a record 65% of all state assets or approximately 2,300 state-owned enterprises. Through privatisation, Ukraine received ₴5.2 billion during the year, of which the sale of assets amounted to ₴3.8 billion, a record for the last decade. The new owners of privatised enterprises pledged to pay ₴732 million in debts to their employees and the state budget of Ukraine.

Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, wrote on Facebook that their analysis of the State Property Fund under Umierov's leadership showed "only positive results in one of the country's once most corrupt institutions."

Kaleniuk also noted the man's involvement in non-public advocacy for weapons for Ukraine: "He often quietly did the things that the Ministry of Defence has been failing to do for the last year and a half. Rustem has been to the United States more than once on arms advocacy visits and knows well how our American partners work."


Rustem Umierov's family is from Aluşta, and he is of Qırımtatar origin. In 1944, the Soviet government forcibly deported his family from Qırım. They managed to return to the peninsula only in the early 1990s.

"With this appointment, Zelenskyy finally shuts down the attempts of anyone (including our allies) to press us into surrendering Qırım. Try at least hinting at this to one of the leaders of the Qırımtatarlar — Umierov," writes Vitalii Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre.

This was also noted by Politico and The New York Times. Politico wrote that the choice of Umierov as defence minister sends two clear signals: "Kyiv is serious about cleaning up corruption and is adamant about getting Qırım back from Russian control."

In 2007, Rustem Umierov co-founded the Crimean Tatar Community NGO and Bizim Qırım, both of which are aimed at protecting the national interests of Qırımtatarlar.

In 2007 and 2012, he was a delegate of the Kurultai of the Qırımtatarlar, as well as an adviser to the leader of Qırımtatarlar Mustafa Cemilev in the V, VI, VII, and VIII convocations of the Rada.

Head of the State Property Fund: Rustem Umierov → Olha Pishchanska

The new head of the Fund has not yet been appointed, but it may be the head of the Anti-Monopoly Committee, Olha Pishchanska, who was dismissed by the Verkhovna Rada on September 5. MP Yaroslav Zhelezniak, as well as Ukrainska Pravda and RBC-Ukraine reported this.

Pishchanska studied and worked in Kryvyi Rih. She studied industrial and civil engineering and economics. She worked as an engineer, in particular at Kryvorizhstal and ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih.

In 2016, she became the head of the mechanical procurement department at Metinvest Holding LLC, owned by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov and sanctioned former MP Vadym Novynskyi.

From 2016 to 2019, she was Director of Procurement Solutions LLC and Commercial Director of STEM Engineering LLC, where she worked at the same time until she was appointed Deputy Head of the Anti-Monopoly Committee. She has been heading the agency since July 2020.

In 2021, reported that Olha Pishchanska's sister, Svitlana, is the head of the company that owns the Zelenskyy family's Italian villa. Svitlana Pishchanska was also among the donors to Zelenskyy's election campaign and donated ₴300,000.

According to Yurii Nikolov, editor of Nashi Hroshi, the Anti-Monopoly Committee under Pishchanska's leadership "played along" with oligarchic businesses by imposing tiny fines on their companies.

At the same time, under Pishchanska's leadership, on August 9, 2023, the Rada supported draft law No. 5431, which launched the reform of Ukraine's competition law. Its adoption was welcomed by, among others, US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink and EU Ambassador to Ukraine Matti Maasikas, but the reform will have to be implemented by the new chairman of the committee.

Chairman of the Anti-Monopoly Committee: Olha Pishchanska → Pavlo Kyrylenko

Pavlo Kyrylenko has been the Head of the Donetsk Regional State Administration since 2019.

He has a law degree and, since 2008, has held various positions in the prosecutor's offices in the Donetsk region and Qırım.

In 2017, Pavlo Kyrylenko was appointed military prosecutor of the Uzhhorod garrison in the Western region of Ukraine.

Kyrylenko is from the temporarily occupied Makiivka, and some of his relatives remained there when the city was occupied by the Russians in 2014. Some Ukrainian media outlets, including Channel 5 and Ukrainska Pravda, reported that Kyrylenko's brother was collaborating with the illegal military formation "DPR," and Myrotvorets added Yevhenii Kyrylenko to its database as a militant of the illegal formation "Oplot." In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself explained that the brothers did not keep in touch due to "political differences."

Kyrylenko himself has repeatedly said in interviews that he last visited the temporarily occupied Donetsk in 2014. "I am not allowed to enter. I left the Donetsk region in June 2014," he said in an interview with Suspilne in April 2022. As for his family, who remained in the temporarily occupied territory, he said that "there is no family for him. There is no one, these people do not exist."