Ukraine's parliament approves ex-lawmaker Rustem Umerov as defence minister

Rustem Umerov, head of the country's main privatisation fund, attends a meeting in the president office in Kyiv

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine's parliament approved the appointment of former lawmaker Rustem Umerov as defence minister on Wednesday, in the biggest shake-up of the defence establishment since Russia's invasion 18 months ago.

Umerov, 41, replaces Oleksii Reznikov, who helped secure billions of dollars of Western military aid as defence minister but was dogged by media allegations of corruption at the ministry and sacked by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday.

Reznikov did not face corruption allegations himself, but says he is the victim of a smear campaign. His removal is not expected to affect Ukraine's military strategy.

"Our main objective is victory," Umerov wrote on Facebook after parliament voted overwhelmingly to back him.

"I will do everything possible and impossible for Ukraine's victory - when we will liberate every centimetre of our country and each our person."

Lawmakers had approved Reznikov's removal on Monday, after he tendered his resignation following Zelenskiy's decision to dismiss him.

"Welcome aboard, Minister," the defence ministry wrote on X.

Reznikov said Umerov was "a great fit" for the position.

"The challenges are many but such are the times in which we live. Unity is the key to our victory," he said on X.

When proposing Umerov, a Crimean Tatar, Zelenskiy said new approaches and other forms of interaction with the military and society were needed as Russia's invasion entered its 19th month.

"To head the defence institution during the full-scale war with Russia is a big responsibility," Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said. "We expect that the new minister will quickly step into his duties and continue reforms of the defence sector."

Before his appointment, Umerov, who speaks English and Turkish, headed Ukraine's main privatisation agency - the State Property Fund - for about a year.

He was credited for overturning the institution and restarting the efforts to sell loss-making state-owned companies to private investors despite the war.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash, Yuliia Dysa and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Timothy Heritage)