Ukraine's defence ministry in turmoil at key point in war

Ukraine sent mixed messages over the fate of its defence minister on Monday, leaving a key post in its war effort in doubt even as it braces for a new Russian offensive.

A day after announcing that Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov would be replaced, a top ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appeared to row back for now, saying no personnel changes in the defence sector would be made this week.

David Arakhamia, chief of the parliamentary bloc of Zelenskiy's party, had said Reznikov would be made minister of strategic industries, while the head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, would take over the defence ministry.

But Zelenskiy remained silent on the issue, while Reznikov himself said on Sunday he had not been informed of any move, and would reject the strategic industry job if offered it.

The doubt over the minister's fate comes as Russian forces have been advancing for the first time in half a year in relentless battles in the east. A regional governor said Moscow was pouring reinforcements into eastern Ukraine for a new offensive that could come as soon as next week.

Two senior lawmakers on Monday noted that rules require Ukraine's defence minister to be a civilian, which would appear to put an obstacle in the way of the immediate appointment of Budanov, a 37-year-old military officer.

Removing Reznikov, who has been warmly received in Western capitals including Paris just last week, would be the highest profile reshuffle in a slew of resignations and sackings in recent weeks, some of which followed corruption scandals.

Ukraine has a decades-long reputation for graft, and Zelenskiy is under pressure to demonstrate the country can be a reliable steward of billions of dollars in Western military and civilian aid. In announcing a personnel purge last month, Zelenskiy pledged to meet Western standards of clean governance.

Reznikov, a lawyer by profession, has not been publicly implicated in any scandals. But one of his deputies and several other officials have left, and prosecutors have announced a probe into allegations that a defence ministry contract would have corruptly overpaid for food for troops.

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