Images of Ukrainian female soldiers marching in heels have sparked criticism for being “harmful” with some demanding authorities apologise for “humiliating” women.
The soldiers were practising ahead of a military parade next month to mark 30 years of independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The photographs have been met with outrage from the country’s lawmakers who called on the defence minister, Andriy Taran, to wear heels to the parade.
Inna Sovsun, a member of the Golos party, said Ukraine's women soldiers were risking their lives and “do not deserve to be mocked”, adding: “It is hard to imagine a more idiotic, harmful idea.”
Olena Kondratyuk, deputy speaker of parliament, demanded authorities conduct an inquiry and apologise for “humiliating” women who “defend the independence of Ukraine with arms in hand”.
On the ministry’s information site ArmiaInform, cadet Ivanna Medvid is quoted as saying: “Today, for the first time, training takes place in heeled shoes.”
She later added: “It is slightly harder than in army boots but we are trying.”
Social media also accused the images of sexualising women soldiers – over 30,000 of who serve in the country’s armed forces.
More than 13,500 Ukrainian women have fought against pro-Russian separatists in the east since the conflict began seven years ago.
Commentator Vitaly Portnikov wrote on Facebook: “The story of a parade in heels is a real disgrace”. He also said Ukrainian officials had a “medieval” mindset.
Another commentator, Maria Shapranova, accused the defence ministry of “sexism and misogyny”.
“High heels are a mockery of women imposed by the beauty industry,” she said.
Additional reporting by Agence France Presse