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Russian army scraps new uniforms

By Steven Eke
BBC Russian affairs analyst

Russian soldiers rehearse for Victory Day (24 April 2009)
Senator Viktor Ozerov said uniforms were not a priority for the army

A plan to replace Soviet-era Russian military uniforms with ones by a leading fashion designer has been abandoned because of a lack of money.

The plan to bring in the new uniforms, designed by Valentin Yudashkin, was supported by Russian PM Vladimir Putin.

There is now only enough money to pay for uniforms for soldiers taking part in the forthcoming Victory Day parade.

Everyone else, it seems, will remain in the rather drab olive shades Russia inherited from the former Soviet Union.

'Less frumpy'

On Friday, Senator Viktor Ozerov, chairman of Russian Federation Council committee on defence and security, told the radio station Ekho Moskvy that the army knew what to spend money on - and that new uniforms were not a priority.

Valentin Yudashkin shows off his uniform designs (23 April 2008)
Valentin Yudashkin's designs built on the uniforms of imperial Russia

"I think that the uniforms which servicemen now wear make it possible to distinguish them from civilians," he said.

The new designs for the army uniforms come from Russia's leading fashion designer, Valentin Yudashkin.

They build on the uniforms of imperial Russia, with strong emphasis on red and blue colours, together with polished brass adornments for parade dress.

They are decidedly less frumpy than the oversized fur hats and foot wraps that still form part of the standard kit.

Prime Minister Putin was an admirer of Yudashkin's proposals and took a personal involvement in them while president.

The report that the new uniforms have fallen victim to Russia's own credit crunch suggests financial difficulties greater than those publicly acknowledged.

Russian defence spending has grown very quickly over recent years.

Before the global financial crisis hit, Russia's government had planned to spend more than $100bn (£67bn) on modernisation and re-armament projects.

The idea was to move away from a bloated, inefficient, often poorly trained military, and to focus on advanced technology, in military aviation and Russia's strategic nuclear rocket forces.

There is now a huge question mark over the project, with recent announcements of swingeing cuts in the officer corps and general staff.



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