Rustem Umerov to be the next Ukraine defence minister leading counteroffensive against Russia

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadSep 05, 2023 | 10:11

Rustem Umerov to be the next Ukraine defence minister leading counteroffensive against Russia

Ukraine gets new defence minister, Rustem Umerov. Photo: rustem_umerov/X

Ukraine, at the crux of war with Russia, is set to get a new defence minister. Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar from the Ukrainian Muslim minority, has been named by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as the new defence minister. Umerov is set to take over from Oleksii Reznikov, who has been in the role since November 2021. 

Rustem Umerov will now be the man in charge of Ukraine's counteroffensive against Russia. There are several reasons why Umerov has been chosen for the crucial job at a crucial point in time. His appointment is also part of the cabinet-level shake-up to tackle corruption within the government. 


Who is Rustem Umerov?

Rustem Umerov. Photo: rustem_umerov/X
  • Rustem Umerov was born in Soviet Uzbekistan, where his Tatar family was exiled to by Soviet's Stalin. 
  • Umerov moved to Crimea in Ukraine as a child in the 80s when the Tatars were allowed to return. 
  • He started as a successful businessman in the telecom sector and in 2019 entered the parliament as the deputy for the pro-European Holos party.
  • During the war, Umerov has been a part of several high-stakes negotiations with Western allies and Russia including the Black Sea grain deal. 


  • Rustem Umerov does not belong to Zelensky's party, instead is part of a small party that sits in opposition.
  • However, his appointment is supposed to solidify Kyiv's intentions regarding Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 and remains largely under their control. 
  • Given Umerov's Crimean background, his appointment shows Ukraine's seriousness in freeing Crimea from Russian occupation, something which Kyiv's Western allies are skeptical about.

  • The Muslim ethnic minority of Tatars in Crime have been persecuted by Russia since the annexation. Moscow also banned the traditional assembly of the Tatar Muslim minority, Mejlis, and declared it an extremist organisation. 
  • The Tatars have largely boycotted Moscow's sham referendum in 2014 for Crimea. 
  • His appointment is also an effort to clean up corruption in the government, which his predecessor was reportedly unable to handle. 
  • Umerov has been largely known as a 'zero problem person' with no scandals to his name. His clean image also shows Ukraine's Western allies about its seriousness to deal with graft. 
  • Furthermore, Rustem Umerov is known for having close ties in the Muslim world such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, crucial for negotiations with Russia. 

  • Umerov has served as the co-chair of the Crimea Platform, an international diplomatic effort to reverse Russia's annexation of Crimea. 
  • He also headed the State Property Fund in September 2022, thought to be a tough job in Ukraine given that privatisation is plagued by corruption. 
Last updated: September 05, 2023 | 10:11
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