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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy replaces wartime defense minister

Published September 3, 2023last updated September 3, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he will ask parliament this week to replace his Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who has been accused of graft. DW has the latest.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Zelenskyy's announcement sets the stage for the biggest shakeup of Ukraine's defense establishment since the start of the warImage: Piroschka van de Wouw/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the dismissal of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in his nightly video address on Sunday.

Reznikov had been accused of graft earlier this year, but Ukraine's president did not mention the allegations.

"I've decided to replace the Minister of Defense of Ukraine. Oleksii Reznikov has been through more than 550 days of full-scale war," Zelenskyy said, arguing that the ministry needs "new approaches."

Meanwhile, Ukraine's air force said that it destroyed 22 out of 25 drones in a Russian attack on the southwestern Ukrainian region of Odesa.

The attack injured at least two people and hit "civilian infrastructure" at the Danube River port, Ukrainian officials said. 

The attack was reported shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy said that two more ships had passed through a temporary "grain corridor" in the Black Sea.

Here are more headlines concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Sunday, September 3:

Skip next section Zelenskyy dismisses Defense Minister Reznikov
September 3, 2023

Zelenskyy dismisses Defense Minister Reznikov

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has dismissed Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

"Oleksiy Reznikov has been through more than 550 days of full-scale war," Ukraine's president said in his nightly address.

"I believe that the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society at large."

Zelenskyy nominated Rustern Umerov as Reznikov's replacement.

"Now Rustem Umerov should be the head of the (defense) ministry," Zelenskyy said. "I expect parliament to support this candidate."

Umerov, a Crimean Tatar, is currently the head of the Ukrainian government's privatization body, the State Property Fund. He also participated in negotiations on the Black Sea grain deal.

Reznikov was accused of corruption in January, leading to the resignation of his deputy, Vyacheslav Shapovalov.

Skip next section Ukraine to deploy F-16s by spring — defense minister
September 3, 2023

Ukraine to deploy F-16s by spring — defense minister

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he expects Ukraine to deploy F-16 fighter jets by next spring.

He made the comments in an interview for Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform.

He said that the aircraft could only be deployed by spring as pilots would first need to be trained on the jets .

The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have all promised Ukraine the jets.

So far, Ukraine has been guaranteed at least 50 aircraft, fewer than the 160 demanded by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Reznikov said he had to write several letters with assurances Kyiv would only use the aircraft for defense purposes and not strike on Russian territory.

Kyiv's allies have long hesitated over providing Ukraine with weapons with long-range capabilities over fears attacks on Russian territory could lead to an escalation of the war.

Skip next section Zelenskyy discussed 'functioning of grain corridor' with Macron
September 3, 2023

Zelenskyy discussed 'functioning of grain corridor' with Macron

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed the "functioning" of a "temporary" Black Sea shipping corridor.

It was established after Russia exited a landmark grain deal

The phone call came on the eve of a summit in Russia between President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wants to revive the grain deal.

It also comes after a Russian drones targeted the Reni seaport in Ukraine's Odesa region on Sunday,

"We also discussed ways to ensure the functioning of the grain corridor and enhance the security of the Odesa region," Zelenskyy said on social media after a phone call with Macron.

Zelenskyy  thanked France for its support, including crucial military aid. "We discussed the next packages," he added.

Ukraine this week said four ships had passed through its temporary corridor in the Black Sea, which it had set up last month to ensure safe navigation, despite a Russian naval blockade.

Ukraine calls Russia's bluff on Black Sea ships

Skip next section Russian defensive line breached in south, Ukrainian general says
September 3, 2023

Russian defensive line breached in south, Ukrainian general says

Ukrainian forces have broken through the first and strongest of several Russian defense lines in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, the Ukrainian commander for the region has told British media.

Ukrainian soldiers are expecting faster progress as they push towards the weaker second line of defense, Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskiy told the Observer newspaper in an interview.

The counteroffensive against Russian forces which invaded Ukraine in February last year had long been hampered by a huge minefield in the region. The demining had been done mainly at night, Tarnavskiy said.

The aim of the southern offensive is to reach the Sea of Azov, about 90 kilometers (roughly 55 miles) away, effectively cutting in half the areas of southern Ukraine held by Russia, and breaking a key supply route to and from the Crimean peninsula.

Ukraine counteroffensive – last chance for victory?

Skip next section Russian army has recruited 280,000 soldiers since January
September 3, 2023

Russian army has recruited 280,000 soldiers since January

Russia's former president and Security Council chairman Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow had recruited some 280,000 people into the army since the start of the year.

Russia has not announced another mobilization, seen as an unpopular measure, but has led an active campaign to attract more military recruits as its full-scale invasion of Ukraine drags into a 19th month.

"According to data from the ministry of defense, 280,000 people have joined the Russian army on contracts from January 1," Medvedev said.

"Part of them were in the reserves, part of them volunteers and other categories," he said, during a visit to the Far Eastern Russian island of Sakhalin. In early August, Medvedev said the army had recruited around 230,000 people since the start of the year. 

Since the spring, the Russian army has led a huge publicity campaign to recruit volunteers, with mass advertisements online and in Russian streets. It has also sought to attract future soldiers by promising higher salaries.

Russia makes it harder to avoid conscription

Skip next section Russia recruiting migrants, Central Asian nationals: UK
September 3, 2023

Russia recruiting migrants, Central Asian nationals: UK

The British Defense Ministry said in its regular intelligence update that Moscow has been trying to recruit fighters from its neighboring countries as of late June. 

The report cited adverts in Armenia and Kazakhstan offering 495,000 rubles ($5,140, €4,761) in initial payments and monthly salaries starting from 190,000 rubles.  

It added that Russia had made efforts to appeal to the ethnic Russian population in Kazakhstan's northern Qostanai region.

The Kremlin also likely views the over 6 million migrants from Central Asia in Russia as potential recruits, the British government posits. According to the report, some Central Asian migrants were approached "with promises of fast-track citizenship" and salaries of up to $4,160.

"Russia likely wishes to avoid further unpopular domestic mobilization measures in the run up to the 2024 presidential elections," it said.  

"Exploiting foreign nationals allows the Kremlin to acquire additional personnel for its war effort in the face of mounting casualties."

Skip next section Ukraine says shot down 22 Russian drones in Odesa
September 3, 2023

Ukraine says shot down 22 Russian drones in Odesa

The Ukrainian air force said on Sunday that Russian launched an overnight attack on the southwestern Odesa region that lasted more than three hours. 

It said that the drones were Iranian-made Shahed models and that 22 of 25 were shot down. 

A least two people were injured and a Danube River port infrastructure was hit in the attack, according to the air force.

Russia has stepped up its attacks on Odesa and Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, after it halted a UN-brokered deal that allowed safe shipments from the Black Sea. 

The two Ukrainian regions are home to vital ports and infrastructure for grain shipment. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Saturday that two more vessels had passed through the temporary "Black Sea grain corridor," which Ukraine is using to release cargo ships that have been trapped in its ports since Russia's invasion.

dh,fb/lo,msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)