The photogenic new police officers patrolling Kiev's streets

police photo Image copyright NASh Kiev / Facebook
Image caption Kiev residents are posting pictures of themselves with the city's new police officers

Ukraine is trying to reform its police service, and the efforts - which include the hiring of a number of young and photogenic new officers - have reaped some unexpected rewards online.

Not only are Ukrainian police notoriously corrupt, but they also played a violent role in last year's dramatic events in Maidan Square, where more than 100 people were killed before president Viktor Yanukovych was eventually ousted from power.

As a result, the new administration in Kiev has been trying to reform the force - changing its name and uniforms, enlisting US and Canadian trainers, firing older officers and hiring 2,000 new ones - a quarter of them female. (Here's a BBC video about the changes.)

The new force started patrolling the streets of the Ukrainian capital over the weekend and since then they've been a big hit on social media, with many people sharing photos taken with the new recruits. Many of the selfies were being posted on Facebook pages such as this one run by local news site Nash Kiev ("Our Kiev") And the hashtag #KyivPolice has been used more than 3,500 times on Twitter in the past week.

Image copyright NASh Kiev / Facebook
Image copyright Twitter / @yarko
Image copyright NASh Kiev / Facebook

"Time will tell if the [police] reform will work or not. But the fact that there are people who sincerely believe in the 'serve and protect' thing, makes me really happy," said Facebook user Kira Kirilenko.

A well-known Ukrainian actor and TV personality, Antin Mukharskiy, shared a story about a group of, as he put it "traditional policemen" who were shouting and swearing underneath his window. "A patrol arrived in three minutes and traditional policemen started to disperse like elementary school students … When my wife thanked [the new officers] from the balcony, they replied: 'From now on, we will always take care of you.'"

And a popular coffee shop even offered free hot drinks to police officers via a Facebook post that has been liked more than 5,000 times.

But despite the PR boost, there is still some scepticism as to whether the reforms will stamp out corruption. One poll indicated that four-fifths of Ukranians believe the fight against corruption is not working.

"A feast for the eyes. All the traffic was staring at and waving to #kyivpolice, and we almost missed the green lights," said journalist Oksana Denysova, who posted a picture of two police cars. But she ended her post with a note of caution: "Do not let us down, darlings."

Reporting by Dmytro Zotsenko, BBC Monitoring‏

Blog by Mike Wendling

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