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Rustem Umerov pictured on 14 August, 2023. Alamy Stock Photo
new approach

Ukraine parliament approves Rustem Umerov as new defence minister

In his first comments in the new role, Umerov vowed to recapture all territory under Russian military control.

UKRAINE’S NEWLY APPOINTED Defence Minister Rustem Umerov vowed today to recapture all territory under Russian military control, in his first comments in the new role.

Lawmakers had earlier approved Umerov, a Crimean Tatar, as Kyiv’s new defence minister after his name was put forward by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“I will do everything possible and impossible for the victory of Ukraine – when we liberate every centimetre of our country and every one of our people,” Umerov said in a post on social media.

“We will return normal and dignified life to Ukrainian cities, which are unfortunately temporarily occupied. We know that people there are waiting for us,” he added.

The 41-year-old’s appointment marks a significant change for Ukraine more than a year and a half into Russia’s invasion, and follows corruption scandals in the defence ministry.

Senior lawmaker Yaroslav Zheleznyak said on social media that 338 out of 360 lawmakers present voted in favour of Umerov’s nomination.

Zelensky nominated Umerov for the role calling for “new approaches” in Ukraine’s defence ministry, and Ukraine’s prime minister urged Umerov to quickly pursue changes inside the ministry.

“We expect that the new minister will promptly start work and continue the defence sector reforms that have been initiated,” Denys Shmygal said in a social media post confirming the appointment.

A former businessman, Umerov has taken part in prisoner exchange negotiations and grain deal talks.

He is active in the Tatar Muslim community of Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.

“It is the highest state post ever held by a Tatar (from Crimea),” Sergiy Leshchenko, an advisor to the presidential administration, told AFP.

The Tatar community of Crimea has largely been against Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.

Umerov is known to have good contacts with Turkey, speaking fluent Turkish and some Arabic, as well as English.

© AFP 2023