October 14, 2014 - 14:12 AMT
Ukrainian parliament backs Stepan Poltorak as Defense Minister

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday approved National Guard chief Stepan Poltorak as Defense Minister following his nomination by President Petro Poroshenko, according to Reuters.

Poltorak, 49, a colonel-general, replaces Valery Heletey who faced criticism for a rout of Ukrainian forces by Russian-backed militias 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."

Photo: Reuters