1 of 2 | Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar was one of seven top defense officials sacked from their posts Monday in the wake of corruption scandals that brought down their boss, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. File photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE
Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired his entire defense cabinet Monday ahead of a trip to the U.N. General Assembly and Washington where he is expected to seek more support for the country's battle to expel Russian occupying forces.
Deputy defense ministers Hanna Maliar, Volodymyr Havrylov, Rostyslav Zamlynskyi, Denys Sharapov, Andrii Shevchenko and Vitalii Deineha were formally dismissed by a meeting of the Ministers' Cabinet, according to the cabinet press office.
State Secretary for the Defense Ministry Kostiantyn Vashchenko was also let go.
No reason was provided for the decision but Ukraine's Pravda news agency reported a defense ministry source as saying, "a complete overhaul is underway."
The dismissals are the apparent culmination of a purge that began two weeks ago with the dismissal of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Sept. 6 after a series of corruption allegations involving equipment and supplies procurement contracts.
Reznikov has strongly rejected the allegations of corruption during his 22 months in the top defense job.
His deputy ministers resigned of their own accord at the request of new Defense Minister Rustem Umierov and in line with Ukrainian law which mandates that if a minister is dismissed, the first deputy minister and deputy ministers are dismissed by the Cabinet of Ministers.
Zelensky will hold talks with world leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. gathering that got underway Monday before traveling to Washington on Thursday for an unconfirmed meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The visit has been timed to coincide with an effort by President Joe Biden's administration to persuade Congress to back additional assistance to Ukraine to the tune of $24 billion, according to the Washington Post.
The purge in Kyiv came as Zelensky attempts to clean up the Defense Ministry following an investigation into corruption, though Reznikov has not been personally implicated in the investigation.
Reznikov had been lauded for his central role in coordinating shipments of military equipment and material to Ukraine but Ukrainian lawmakers approved his resignation by a large margin in a vote Sept. 4, a day after he quit.
In August, allegations of corruption in military recruitment prompted Zelensky to announce that officials in charge of recruitment would be replaced with wounded war veterans.
However, at a subsequent meeting assessing the outcome of an investigation into corruption allegations, the National Security and Defense Council ruled combat officers would have to be vetted by the SBU, Ukraine's intelligence service, before being appointed to positions on military commissions.