Ukraine’s defense ministry has come under heavy criticism for its intention to parade cadet women in high heels in a parade celebrating the country’s independence next month.
Photos posted by the ministry on Facebook on Thursday showed women from the Military Institute of Taras Shevchenko National University in the country’s capital, Kiev, walking in the shoes, with camouflage pants, shirts and hats.
Cadets train twice a day, averaging four hours a day, the ministry said in an article alongside the photos. The August 24 parade in Kiev will mark the 30th anniversary of the country’s independence.
The images sparked outrage online, with some commentators questioning the choice of shoes and calling it “torture.”
Politicians have also criticized the plans.
Ukraine’s deputy speaker Elena Kondratyuk, known as Verkhovna Rada, called the images “ferocious trash” in a Facebook post.
Citing the country’s constitution which guarantees equality between men and women, she also called on Defense Minister Andriy Taran to conduct an investigation.
Former Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk called it “a step towards North Korea” in a Facebook post.
Opposition MP Iryna Gerashchenko also called it a “humiliation” for women in the Ukrainian army, in a statement posted on Facebook. She added that she originally thought the idea was a hoax.
“The contribution of Ukrainian women to the country’s defense capabilities is invaluable,” she said, adding that she was preparing an investigation into the matter for President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Army. country, with other women parliamentarians.
The Defense Ministry said earlier this year that 31,757 women served in the country’s armed forces, more than 15% of the total number.
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The country is embroiled in a six-year conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the east, which has left at least 13,000 dead, with women involved in active service.
In another Facebook post after Friday’s outrage, the Defense Ministry said the heels were part of the official parade uniform. He also shared photos of female soldiers in other countries marching in parades while wearing heels.
Taran visited the cadets in the photos to discuss the parade uniforms at Saturday, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
He said he had ordered an investigation to see if a more ergonomic and improved “experimental shoe model” could be developed for next month’s show. If the new shoe design was successful, it could be implemented for all female troops, he said.
Photos accompanying the statement showed Taran meeting female cadets wearing boots, not heels.