Recruits to a new Ukrainian police force will wear uniforms more akin to those of the US police than the militaristic, Soviet-style uniforms of the past.
The swearing-in ceremony for the first 2,000 recruits took place on a central Kiev square this weekend, and was presided over by President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, Kiev mayor Vitaly Klitschko and the US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.
The changes go beyond uniforms, however, as officers have received training from US and Canadian counterparts and will be known under the name Politsiya, rather than Militsiya. The new force also has a more youthful feel, with the head being just 28 years old.
The changes are intended as a sign of deep commitment to reform by the authorities. Ending corruption among the police is a key goal of the Ukrainian government, and the oath sworn by prospective officers included a promise not to accept bribes. During the ceremony, President Poroshenko spoke to the recruits on this issue: “The main danger zone is not where the bullets are whizzing but where the banknotes are rustling.”
The officers will first patrol major cities in Ukraine, before being sent across the entire country. Members of the old force will have to undergo tests to determine whether they have the necessary fitness levels for such patrols.
Funded partially by the US and other western governments, the changes are widely seen to represent a marked break from Ukraine’s Soviet past. They follow controversial de-communisation legislation adopted in April by Ukrainian lawmakers.