Ukraine’s defense minister is under pressure from members of the government over the decision to have female military cadets wear pumps with heels in the important parade celebrating Ukraine’s break from the Soviets, the country’s current military muscle.
“The purpose of any military parade is to demonstrate the military ability of the army. There should be no room for stereotypes and sexism,” said a joint statement from three Cabinet members, including Minister of Veterans Affairs Yulia Laputina.
The statement followed last week’s announcement about the footwear in the parade planned for Aug. 24, the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
Photos published by the ministry on Facebook Thursday showed the women from the Military Institute at the Taras Shevchenko National University in the country’s capital, Kyiv, marching in the shoes, along with camouflage pants, shirts, and hats.
The cadets have been practicing twice daily, for an average of four hours a day, the ministry said in a post alongside the pictures.
The images were met with outrage online, with some commenters questioning the choice of footwear and calling it “torture.”
Politicians also criticized the plans.
Elena Kondratyuk, the vice-speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, called the pictures “ferocious trash” in a Facebook post.
Citing the country’s constitution, which guarantees equality between men and women, she also called for 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 lawmaker Iryna Gerashchenko also called it “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 inquiry on the matter for President Volodymyr Zelensky, who also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the country’s military, with other female parliamentarians.
Defense Minister Andriy Taran said he had instructed officials to look into whether “experimental” shoes — ankle boots, according to news reports — could be worn by the female cadets instead of the pumps with heels.
The military offered no explanation as to why female cadets were wearing a different type of shoe than male cadets.