Defense Ministry footage of female soldiers practicing for a parade in stiletto heels drew a torrent of criticism.
Ukrainian authorities have come under fire after official photos showed female soldiers practicing in heels for next month’s military parade.
Ukraine is preparing to hold the parade to mark 30 years of independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the Defense Ministry on Thursday released photographs of tired-clad female soldiers marching in black pumps to mid heel.
“Today, for the first time, the training takes place with shoes with heels,” said the youngest Ivanna Medvid, quoted by the information site of the Ministry of Defense ArmiaInform.
“It’s a little harder than in army boots, but we’re trying,” Medvid said.
The choice of shoes sparked a torrent of criticism on social media and in parliament, and led to accusations that female soldiers had been sexualized.
“The story of a parade in heels is a real shame,” commentator Vitaly Portnikov said on Facebook, arguing that some Ukrainian officials had a “medieval” mindset.
“Sexism and misogyny”
Another commentator, Maria Shapranova, accused the Defense Ministry of “sexism and misogyny”.
“High heels are a parody of women imposed by the beauty industry,” she said.
Several Ukrainian lawmakers close to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko showed up to parliament wearing pairs of shoes and encouraged the defense minister to wear high heels for the parade.
“It’s hard to imagine a more silly and harmful idea,” said Inna Sovsun, member of the Golos party, stressing the health risks.
She also said that Ukrainian female soldiers – like men – risked their lives and “did not deserve to be laughed at”.
Ukraine is battling Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2014.
Olena Kondratyuk, Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, said authorities should publicly apologize for “humiliating” the women and carrying out an investigation.
Kondratyuk said more than 13,500 women have fought in the current conflict.
The current conflict
More than 31,000 women serve in the Ukrainian armed forces, including more than 4,000 officers.
Defense Minister Andriy Taran met with a group of younger women and listened to their problems with the shoes and promised them a new model, the Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
“The new improved shoes should be better, more ergonomic and manufactured in the shortest possible time,” the minister said.
The ministry’s statement made no apologies, but expressed regret at the use of the shoe problem “by certain political forces for mundane political and self-publicity purposes”.