KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved National Guard chief Stepan Poltorak as defense minister following his nomination by President Petro Poroshenko.
Poltorak, 49, a colonel-general, replaces Valery Heletey who faced criticism for a rout of Ukrainian forces by Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country at the end of August.
The defeat of Ukrainian forces at Ilovaisk, east of the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, led the pro-Western Poroshenko to abandon hope of a military solution and call a ceasefire from Sept. 5
The reshuffle at the top of the defense ministry comes with the ceasefire holding tenuously as Ukraine prepares for a parliamentary election on Oct. 26 when Poroshenko hopes to secure a broad platform of support for his peace plan and his policies to move the country towards the European mainstream.
Presenting Poltorak as a person of authority commanding broad respect within the army, Poroshenko said he was looking to him to “create a powerful system of defense for Ukraine”.
After being endorsed, Poltorak told parliament: ”I have a clear idea of what I have to do.
“Ukraine needs peace. Contemporary and well-prepared, mobile and well-equipped armed forces are the guarantor of that peace.”
Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Janet Lawrence