Ukraine appoints new defense minister as conflict drags on in the east

Ukraine's parliament has approved a new defense minister as the country remains bogged down in daily clashes with pro-Russian separatist forces in its industrial eastern regions.

Out of 247 deputies that voted Tuesday, all but two approved former National Guard head Stepan Poltorak for the post.

His predecessor, Valeriy Heletey, came under sustained criticism for his handling of military operations in eastern Ukraine, where rebels managed to reverse government successes with a consistent supply of powerful weaponry.

A cease-fire has been in place since early September, but violations are reported daily.

Critics of Poltorak's new appointment noted that he had served as head of Interior Ministry troops for a time under deposed President Viktor Yanukovych, when anti-government protests were met with tough responses from anti-riot personnel.