Operation taken over by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense

Six Ukrainian deputy defense ministers were fired on Monday. A major cleaning which comes two weeks after the arrival of the new Minister of Defense. A battle fought in one of the most strategic ministries, and in which corruption is not the only backdrop. Explanations.

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Serial dismissal at the very strategic Ministry of Defense. In total, six deputy defense ministers were thanked on Monday, September 18, by the new boss of the place, Roustem Oumerov, indicated Oleh Nemtchinov, the secretary general of the Ukrainian government, on Telegram. The much-publicized Hanna Maliar, who held one of the positions of vice-minister since 2021, did not escape this fate.

No official reason was given to justify this decision, but “a complete reform of the ministry is underway”, affirmed the media Oukraïnska Pravda, relying on an anonymous government source.

Cleaning Oleksiï Reznikov’s stables

This clarification suggests that the dismissals are part of Roustem Umerov’s effort to clean out the stables of Oleksiï Reznikov, his predecessor mired in a series of corruption scandals.

The Ministry of Defense has a reputation as a nest of corrupt people, and Oleksiï Reznikov was mainly accused of not having cracked down enough to put an end to these practices.

Roustem Oumerov, a loyalist of President Volodymyr Zelensky appointed to this post at the beginning of September, would thus seek to stand out from the start.

A justification for this big clean-up which only moderately convinces Ryhor Nizhnikau, specialist in Ukrainian politics at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs: “Some of the deputy ministers had recently been appointed with the road map of fighting corruption” , he emphasizes.

Others, like Hanna Maliar, have never been seriously accused of dipping into the coffers, even though they occupy highly exposed media positions and their every move is scrutinized. “Hanna Maliar represented the public face of the ministry and had even been approached to succeed Oleksiï Reznikov,” underlines Ryhor Nizhnikau.

Satisfy Western support for kyiv

“Roustem Oumerov therefore wanted to neutralize a potential rival within the ministry itself,” he adds. For him, this sweep would above all be a political coup. “The new minister thus indicates to his administration that he has received carte blanche from the president to act as he wishes and that he can replace all the vice-ministers at once with his own men (who have not yet been officially chosen)”, specifies the expert from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

It is also a gift that Roustem Oumerov makes to his president, while Volodymyr Zelensky must speak in person at the UN platform for the first time since the start of the great Russian offensive in February 2022. The man strong Kiev will thus be able to brandish this example “to emphasize to Western supporters of Ukraine that its government is making efforts to reform the Ukrainian political system”, argues Ryhor Nizhnikau.

At the same time, Volodymyr Zelensky can also use these changes to call on Ukraine’s generous donors to be more patient. “Each high-profile dismissal is an opportunity to say that we will have to wait a little to see the concrete results of the changes made,” notes Ryhor Nizhnikau.

But it is also a risky decision in the context of the ongoing counter-offensive in southern Ukraine. Roustem Oumerov arrived at the Ministry of Defense without any military experience and deprived himself of his main collaborators “who could have explained to him the workings of the ministry”, adds Ryhor Nizhnikau.

Not to mention that it will be necessary to train the new vice-ministers who will be appointed. A period of transition which risks slowing down decision-making in a strategic ministry for the war effort. It is he, in particular, who must decide on the sending of ammunition and other military equipment to the front.


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