Why am I asking? The minister of defense of Ukraine was dismissed this year. According to Polish and Austrian media which I consume this was the initiative of President Zelenski. However, I had the intuition that this is not the full story.

What have I researched? I started reading the Ukrainian consitution. Article 85/12 states that the parliament, the Verkhovna Rada appoints the Minister of Defense upon submission of the President, then it names other political positions which are appointed by the parliament.

What is not clear for me? Then it states "removing the aforementioned persons from their offices;" Upon the submission of the president or not?

Reference: https://hcj.gov.ua/sites/default/files/field/file/the_constitution_of_ukraine.pdf

Edit: I have found the answer here: https://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/anot/en/794-18

According to Article 18 of the Law, a member of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (except for the Prime Minister of Ukraine) can be dismissed from their position by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine:


by proposal of the Prime Minister of Ukraine (for the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, such proposal is made with approval of the President of Ukraine);

by proposal of the President of Ukraine – for the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Minister of Defense of Ukraine;


1 Answer 1


The Western press indeed reported this as Zelensky firing Reznikov (and just ahead of Zelensky's visit to the US, IIRC).

OTOH, if you read Radio Svoboda (RFERL in Ukrainian), it's presented as just a proposal that the Rada acted upon:

On September 3, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky announced his intention to replace the Minister of Defense of Ukraine. According to him, "the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction both with the military and with society as a whole." Zelenskyi said that Rustem Umerov should now head the Ministry of Defense. The President expects the Parliament to support this candidacy.

The Rada then voted in (apparently on Sep 6) the new minister with some 338 votes for and a handful of abstentions. (The Rada has about 450 members, max--but fewer seats are actually occupied due to various factors. Anyhow, the votes cast for Umerov were a comfortable majority.) I guess the whole thing was thus rather in line with the Ukrainian constitution, although I've not investigated all the details.

Also, after Zelensky announced the move, but before the Rada voted in the new minister, the incumbent resigned; AP reported this on Sep 4.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov submitted a letter of resignation on Monday after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he would be replaced and named his successor.

The Guardian thus had the somewhat funny headline:

Ukraine’s defence minister resigns after Zelenskiy removes him from post

Also, according to the Kyiv Post, there was a separate vote in the Rada on Sep 5 to accept Reznikov's resignation; this one had 327 votes for, 4 against, and 11 abstaining.

Article 85/12 actually mentions that the President has the initiative role in the appointment process:

Art 85. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall have the following powers [...]

  1. appointing the [...] Minister of Defence of Ukraine [...] upon the submission of the President of Ukraine

Likewise the Rada's vote on the resignation is covered at the end of 85/12 with a provision on

resolving resignation[s] [...] of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.

Whereas you ask

Then it states "removing the aforementioned persons from their offices;" Upon the submission of the president or not?

In this case the subsequent clause on "resolving resignations" was probably applied. Because Reznikov formally resigned after Zelensky's announcement.

I suspect that the way article 85/12 is written it might even allow a mere member of the Rada to submit a dismissal motion for a minister (even if that minister didn't resign), which subject to Rada procedure might be eventually be put to a vote. Something like that would not be too hard to muster if the president has any followers in the Rada and wants a minister gone, and more assuredly if he commands the loyalty of the majority party.

There was certainly a case in 2006 when the whole Cabinet was dismissed with a no-confidence motion that didn't originate from the president.

Yesterday, January 10 [2006], the Ukrainian parliament voted no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, which has only been in place since late September 2005, when he replaced Yulia Tymoshenko.

President Viktor Yushchenko seems oblivious to the building furor over the new gas contract with Russia, suggesting that he is out of touch with reality and that the authorities are unable to muster a convincing case either at home or abroad.

The no confidence motion comes only six days after Ukraine and Russia signed a new gas contract to replace the 10-year contract signed in 2003 but unilaterally discarded by Gazprom. Although ostensibly a rebuff of the new contract, the vote also allowed parties to score points ahead of Ukraine's March 26 parliamentary elections.

Yushchenko People's Union-Our Ukraine (NSNU) faction voted against the no confidence motion, as did five satellite factions (Rukh, the People's Party, Reforms and Order, Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and Revival), and the Socialist Party (SPU). The Communist, Regions of Ukraine, and the Social Democratic Party threw their combined 135 votes behind the no confidence motion, which passed thanks to an additional 133 votes from the Tymoshenko bloc and its satellite United Ukraine faction, as well as parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn's People's Party and its satellite People's Lytvyn Bloc.

And funnily enough Yekhanurov was also dismissed in 2009, only from the post of minister of Defense (which he then occupied), again only on the initiative of the Rada:

June 5, 2009

Ukraine, which has been as hard hit by the financial crisis as any major country in Europe, slid further into political disarray on Friday when Parliament voted overwhelmingly to dismiss the defense minister. The move underscored the bitter rift between two former allies, President Viktor A. Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who were leaders of the Orange Revolution, which brought to power a pro-Western government in 2005.

Ms. Tymoshenko orchestrated the parliamentary vote to oust the defense minister, Yuri Yekhanurov, who had been nominated by the president and had served in that role since December 2007. She accused Mr. Yekhanurov of allowing corruption to flourish in the military, saying money had been stolen from programs that bought food for soldiers and fuel.

President Yushchenko and Mr. Yekhanurov called the accusations false and politically motivated, and denounced the vote.

The constitution of Ukraine was amended a bunch of times since then, generally to give the presidency more powers, but I suspect something like that is still [legally] possible.

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