October 14, 2014 / 8:04 AM / 3 years ago

Ukraine's parliament approves president's choice for defense minister

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved National Guard chief Stepan Poltorak as defense minister following his nomination by President Petro Poroshenko.

National Guard commander Stepan Poltorak attends a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, in this October 13, 2014 handout photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service. REUTERS/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Mykola Lazarenko/Handout via Reuters

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

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