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Russian Troops Irked by New Rules on Facial Hair

Newsweek 1/23/2023 Gerrard Kaonga
Russian soldiers patrol a street on April 11, 2022, in Volnovakha in the Donetsk region. The picture was taken during a trip organized by the Russian military. newly appointed commander in Ukraine, General Valery Gerasimov, has implemented the rule that soldiers must be clean-shaven, much to the frustration of troops. © Getty Russian soldiers patrol a street on April 11, 2022, in Volnovakha in the Donetsk region. The picture was taken during a trip organized by the Russian military. newly appointed commander in Ukraine, General Valery Gerasimov, has implemented the rule that soldiers must be clean-shaven, much to the frustration of troops.

Russian soldiers are complaining about new regulations regarding their facial hair, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defence in an update on January 23 about the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

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According to a tweet by the ministry, the newly appointed commander in Ukraine, General Valery Gerasimov, has implemented a rule that soldiers must be clean-shaven, as well as other presentation regulations.

There has been pushback on these new rules, most notably from officials in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, according to U.K. intelligence.

"[Gerasimov] has likely started his tour with a drive to improve deployed troops' day-to-day discipline," the intelligence update tweet read.

"Since he took command, officers have been attempting to clamp down on non-regulation uniform, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones, and non-standard haircuts.

"The measures have been met with sceptical feedback. However, some of the greatest derision has been reserved for attempts to improve the standard of troops' shaving.

"Officials in the Donetsk People's Republic described the prioritisation a 'farce' that would 'hamper the process of destroying the enemy.'

"Wagner proxy group owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin criticised military leadership, suggesting that, 'war is the time of the active and courageous, and not of the clean-shaven.'"

The intelligence update also suggested that the fixation on presentation may make Gerasimov appear out of touch.

It continued: "The Russian force continues to endure operational deadlock and heavy casualties; Gerasimov's prioritisation of largely minor regulations is likely to confirm the fears of his many sceptics in Russia.

"Along with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, he is increasingly seen as out of touch and focused on presentation over substance."

A post on Russian newspaper Kommersant's Telegram channel highlighted the frustrations these new rules are having and the pushback they are receiving.

According to a Google translation, the post said: "The founder of Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said that Russia should introduce criminal penalties for 'glamorizing the army.'"

Quoting Prigozhin the post continued: "A bunch of clowns are trying to teach fighters, exhausted by hard military labor, how many times they should shave…"

"I believe that it is necessary to adopt a legislative restriction and the most severe punishment with a prison term of up to 50 years for the glamorization of the army."

Over the weekend, British intelligence dismissed Russia's future plans for military expansion and highlighted potential problems Putin could face.

Earlier in January Shoigu said that he was in the process of planning to restructure the country's armed forces.

The implementation is set to take place between 2023 and 2026 and would reportedly lead to an expansion of Russia's military forces to 1.5 million. This would be an 11 percent increase on top of a previously announced increase to 1.35 million.

A Ministry of Defence tweet on Sunday read: "Shoigu also announced the re-establishment of Moscow and Leningrad military districts, a partial return to the Soviet era organization of forces in Western Russia. A new army corps is to be established in Karelia.

"Shoigu's plans signal that the Russian leadership highly likely assess that an enhanced conventional military threat will endure for many years beyond the current Ukraine war. However, Russia will likely struggle to staff and equip the planned expansion."

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.

Update 1/23/23, 10:55 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include further details on Yevgeny Prigozhin's comments.

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