War in Ukraine: who is Roustem Oumerov, the new Minister of Defense?

It was announced on Sunday evening by Ukrainian President as the next defense minister. Rustem Oumerov will replace Oleksiï Reznikov, implicated in corruption scandals. Volodymyr Zelensky has indicated that he will present his nomination to parliament this week. “Parliament knows this person well and Roustem Oumerov does not need any further introduction,” he ured.

Roustem Oumerov, 41, is indeed a prominent official of Crimean Tatar community who represented kyiv in sensitive negotiations with Moscow. Born in what was then the Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, where his family had been exiled under Stalin, he was a child when his family resettled in Crimea when the Tatars were allowed to enter in the 1980s and 90s.

He started in the telecoms industry in 2004, and has been an MP since 2019. In parliament, he was co-chair of the Crimean Platform, which coordinated international diplomatic efforts to reverse Russia’s 2014 annexation of the peninsula. For many years he was an adviser to the historical leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev.

Discreet negotiations with Moscow

Russia had its annexation of Crimea ratified by a referendum deemed illegitimate by Ukraine and its Western allies. The Tatars, who constitute 12 to 15% of the population of Crimea, largely boycotted this referendum. As a result, Moscow outlawed the Mejlis, the traditional embly of the Tatar Muslim minority, branding it an extremist organization with many members imprisoned.

After the annexation of Crimea, as after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Roustem Oumerov has, on several occasions, participated in discreet negotiations with Moscow, in particular on prisoner exchanges and evacuations of civilians.

He was part of the Ukrainian delegation to the negotiations with Moscow, under the aegis of Turkey and the UN, which allowed the establishment of a maritime corridor allowing the transport of Ukrainian cereals by the Black Sea. Russia recently withdrew from this agreementarguing that kyiv and the West were not letting Russian exports p enough.

In September 2022 Rustem Umerov was appointed head of the State Property Fund, a prominent position in a country where the privatization process is plagued by corruption.

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