Russian Army Vows to Outlaw Foot Cloths by Year End
Russia's defense minister expressed horror on Monday that soldiers were still wrapping cloths around their feet instead of wearing socks, and vowed the historic practice must end this year.
"I would like to give an order that in 2013, at least by the end of the year, we forget the word 'foot cloths'," a grim-faced Sergei Shoigu told military top brass at a televised meeting.
"I ask for extra funds to be issued if necessary so that we completely give up this concept in the armed forces."
Russia's military leaders have repeatedly vowed to ban the practice, dating back a hundred years, as part of an attempt to modernise the sprawling armed forces.
Soldiers wind pieces of cloth around their feet, which some say is more practical for use with tall boots, but the practice is seen as shamefully old-fashioned.
The Russian armed forces modernized its uniform in 2008 with help from top fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin, including cotton socks.
"This is 2013. We are still talking about foot cloths," Shoigu said, adding that he had seen the practice while visiting units in recent months.
"Listen, I am amazed at such an attitude to our troops. Find the level of demand and solve this task," the former emergencies minister ordered brusquely.
Foot cloths and tall boots were taken off the list of essential elements of uniform for the armed forces in 2007 but their use continued and was never banned, a source in the defense ministry told the state RIA Novosti news agency.
Soldiers still wear tall boots for some tasks and foot cloths are more suitable than socks, the source admitted.
"It's very uncomfortable wearing socks with tall boots. The feet quickly get rubbed raw and socks wear out instantly."
Shoigu was appointed defense minister by President Vladimir Putin in November last year after the sacking of his predecessor Anatoly Serdyukov, who is currently being questioned as a witness in a vast corruption scandal.