Ukraine parliament confirms new defence minister Stepan Poltorak

Colonel General Stepan Poltorak speaks to the media in Kiev on Oct 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Colonel General Stepan Poltorak speaks to the media in Kiev on Oct 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

KIEV (AFP) - Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday confirmed National Guard chief Stepan Poltorak as the former Soviet state's fourth defence minister since Russia's annexation of its Crimea peninsula in March.

President Petro Poroshenko nominated the head of the frontline forces fighting pro-Russian insurgents in the separatist east after his predecessor Valeriy Geletey submitted his resignation under intense pressure.

Poltorak's candidacy was approved in a 245-1 vote.

Geletey bore the blame for allowing a contingent of Ukrainian soldiers to be trapped near the Russian border in late August by better-equipped insurgents who outnumbered them.

More than 100 troops died after trying for days to hold off the rebels without any support from nearby Ukrainian units.

The bloodbath shocked the nation and soon prompted Kiev to sign a Russian-backed truce agreement with separatist leaders granting them limited self-rule.

Poroshenko called Poltorak a man "of great military experience who enjoys broad respect among members of the (eastern campaign) and has a strategic vision of defence industry reforms".

The 49-year-old career military man asked parliament to give him time to rebuild the underfunded and demoralised force.

"Ukraine needs peace, and only a modern, well-trained and well-supplied mobile armed forces can guarantee this peace," he said.