Who is Rustem Umerov, the new Ukrainian defense minister chosen by Zelensky

Rustem Umerov is the new Ukrainian defense minister chosen by President Volodymyr Zelensky to replace Oleksiy Reznikov. A decision which, taken in the midst of the Ukrainian counter-offensive in Russian-occupied areas, was motivated by the need for “new approaches and other formats of interaction both with the armed forces and with society as a whole”, said the leader of Kiev. The news of a possible change within the department had already been airing for a few weeks: on August 19, former Defense Minister Reznikov had commented on the rumors that Zelensky was looking for his replacement, stating that the job was for him ” temporary”. Today, his resignation officially arrived (FOLLOW ALL UPDATES LIVE ON THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR).

Who is Rustan Umerov

Crimean Tatar, deputy, negotiator with Russia and Turkey for the wheat agreement, Umerov was born in 1982 in Samarkand in the then Soviet Uzbekistan, where his family had been deported by Stalin in 1944 together with the other Tatars, the group ethnic Turk originally from Crimea. From a very young age, Umerov participates in the program of the US State Department Future Leaders Exchange and, after temporarily moving to the United States, he attended an American school for a year. Graduated in Economics with a master’s degree in management, in 2013 he founded a telecommunications company, Astem.

Political commitment

In 2014 he became co-president of the Crimea Platform, which coordinated diplomatic efforts against the Russian annexation of the peninsula, and for a long time also an adviser to the historic leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev. In 2019 he entered the Ukrainian parliament as a deputy for the liberal and pro-European party Holos. Since September 2022, he has led the State Property Fund which controls the privatization of public assets, an entity at the center of corruption scandals before his management.

Active for the protection of Tatars who fled from Russian-occupied Crimea, Umerov is also a man of dialogue: in 2017 he played a role in the liberation of two Tatars detained in Russia, in March 2022 he participated in the failed peace negotiations with Moscow immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequently was part of the Kiev delegation to reach an agreement on the corridors of grain in the Black Sea, under the aegis of Turkey and the UN.