Ukraine on Thursday appointed a new defense minister to bolster the military, as the country grapples with pro-Russian separatists.
Oleksey Reznikov replaces Andrey Taran, a lawyer with limited military experience, who reportedly resigned earlier this week for health reasons.
A total of 273 lawmakers in the 450-seat Ukrainian parliament voted to approve Reznikov’s candidacy, nominated by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Introducing Reznikov to lawmakers in parliament, Zelensky said his main task would be to “strengthen the defense capability of the army”.
The Ukrainian military is locked in a fierce conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east that erupted after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“The cost of temporary occupation must continue to rise” for the separatists, 55-year-old Reznikov told lawmakers ahead of the vote.
He said a strong military is one of the “most powerful diplomatic” tools, pledging to “improve military compatibility with NATO countries”.
Reznikov had been serving as Minister for the Reunification of Separatist-held Regions since March 2020, and represented Ukraine in peace talks with Russia and OSCE monitors.
His predecessor Taran was criticized for insufficiently improving the country’s under-resourced army.
Ukraine made the appointment on Monday after denying reports of a Russian military build-up near its eastern border raised fears of a new escalation in fighting with separatists.
After escalating violence earlier this year, Russia gathered around 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders in March.
Under pressure from Kiev’s Western allies, Moscow later announced a pullback, but both Ukraine and the United States said the withdrawal was limited at the time.
The conflict has claimed the lives of over 13,000 people so far.