Ukraine’s military has taken its clash with neighboring Russia to a new level, debuting new “Western-style” uniforms that deliberately break with old Soviet sartorial motifs.
The green camouflage uniform with a dark-green beret is modeled on British military styles. The cap includes an insignia of a Cossack, the traditional Ukrainian horseman, grasping a cross. The stars that traditionally adorn should straps in Russian and older Soviet uniforms have been replaced by diamonds.
Ukrainians got their first look at the new uniforms at this week’s Independence Day parade in downtown Kiev, a parade that marked a quarter-century of independence after the break-up of the old Soviet Union.
The redesign also comes two years after the first clashes between Moscow and Kiev over Crimea and Russia’s continuing support for separatist forces in Ukraine’s east.
The uniforms reportedly also incorporate details from the uniforms worn by the Ukrainian Liberation Army, formed in the brief period of independence between the end of World War I and Ukraine’s absorption into the Soviet Union in 1919.
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said in his address Wednesday that the redesign was part of a larger overhaul of the country’s military in the past two years, saying his government had to rebuild the army “almost from scratch” after a popular uprising drove former President Viktor Yanukovych from power and into exile in Russia.
But military analysts say the uniforms are also a political statement in a country still deeply divided between Ukrainian-speaking western parts of the country oriented toward Europe and the West, and Russian-speaking eastern regions with cultural, religious and economic ties to Russia.
“We had to break with any kind of Sovietism,” Ukrainian military expert SvatyslavStetsenko told the Moscow Times Thursday. “Why does Moscow keep these Soviet traditions in its army? To underline their right to return these lands and mentally prepare veterans who still remember the Soviet Union.”
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