Order, adrenaline, psychotropics: why the Belarusian OMON is behaving so cruelly - ForumDaily
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Order, adrenaline, psychotropic drugs: why the Belarusian OMON is behaving so cruelly

The world has seen footage and stories of demonstrators in Belarus about harsh detentions and abuse in detention centers. According to relatives, doctors had to put 16-year-old Timur from Minsk into a coma to cope with injuries received from riot police. In Gomel, 25-year-old Alexander Vikhor was buried over the weekend - the guy who was beaten during his arrest died without receiving medical care. Doctors talk about serious injuries received by protesters and bystanders after interacting with law enforcement officers. Writes about this with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

On Monday, it became known that the Investigative Committee of Belarus received more than 600 statements from citizens about violence during detention, another 100 people complained about beatings in isolation wards.

A former riot policeman spoke about how such cruelty can be explained.

Both employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other structures not subordinate to the ministry took part in the dispersal of protests in Belarus - human rights activists claim that there are at least five of them in the country. Sometimes it was impossible to determine whether they belonged to a particular structure - some of the people were in civilian clothes, and some did not have any identifying marks on their uniforms.

But it was the riot militiamen, according to numerous testimonies, who harshly detained the protesters, piled them up in paddy wagons, and also brutally beat people in temporary detention centers.

Oleg (name changed) served in the Minsk riot police for 17 years - from an ordinary soldier to an officer and unit commander. There are no “formers” in these structures, he says.

“I came to the riot police on the eve of the first presidential elections. He served in the army and underwent special training there. In the 90s, guys in civilian life either joined bandits or the police; there wasn’t much choice. I joined the police: I was raised in the Soviet Union, grew up with examples of heroic deeds. I went there to work for an idea - a salary of $30, you see, is not an incentive. At that time, there were a lot of “Afghans” in the riot police - guys who went through hot spots. They formed our “code of honor”. We would never have done anything like what happened now, in the last days. We were tough, but not cruel,” says Oleg.

“For myself and for that guy”

“I quit in 2010, even before the dispersal of the square (we are talking about the dispersal of demonstrators on Independence Square on the day of the presidential elections, December 19, 2010). I participated in the protection of public order in 1996, during the “Minsk Spring”, when cars overturned and the “Chernobyl Way” was going on. “I also took part in the cleansing of the tent city on Oktyabrskaya Square after the 2006 presidential elections, but, you see, there were no beatings, injuries or mutilations of the demonstrators that are being reported now,” Oleg recalls.

He also described how fighters are being prepared to break up demonstrations.

On the subject: Hundreds of thousands took to the 'Freedom March' in Belarus: Lukashenko 'knelt'

“I don’t know what they told the fighters now. They really believe that they protected the country from the Maidan. I have contact with the people who serve there, with my former subordinates, but I don’t know what is currently happening in the unit. Why do people have such attacks of hatred towards the people? We didn't have that. The crowd response was always adequate. If the crowd stood, no one touched. Riot police stood in a cordon - yes, with shields, without shields. When there was no physical pressure on the police officers, the police officers never gestured in this way,” says the former riot policeman.

“Soldiers in war do not fight for the government, not for the leader of the country. Men in war fight for the guy who sat next to you in the trench - and he is no longer there. Soldiers fight for this. And here, when dispersing demonstrators, the same thing works. Because when a stone hits your partner, your comrade’s head, a wave of anger naturally arises in you - just like in any person. Guys with shields, when there is physical pressure on them, rally. They are already fighting for themselves and for the guy who suffered,” says Oleg, explaining what happens when demonstrators become aggressive. “But I don’t understand what’s happening in many cases now.” I understand the harsh response at the Riga supermarket, where protesters built barricades, fought back as best they could, and, according to some reports, threw Molotov cocktails at law enforcement officers. But I don’t understand, I can’t understand how you can beat a 15-year-old boy on an empty sidewalk, especially since he shouts that he is only 15. In my opinion, there has been some kind of substitution of the principles of military brotherhood.”

Side effect

“Naturally, nothing is done in these units without a team. There is no self-righteousness here. Apparently, at the highest level an order was given to suppress these protests in the most brutal way,” says Oleg. “I don’t know how this can be explained now.” Or they gave the fighters something, but did not tell them what could happen to them. Maybe they gave me some psychotropics, but they said it was to maintain my physical condition. They didn't say that the side effect was unbridled rage and the like. I don't rule it out."

“At one time we worked openly, we didn’t even have masks. We didn’t have to beat a person in handcuffs - a person in handcuffs can’t do anything to you. Ordinary people respected us in our time, the scum were afraid of us. But there was no such hatred as these days. I understand what caused it, what gave rise to the indignation of the people, anger not only towards the riot police, but in general towards people in uniform. This is a very dangerous effect when anger, hatred and even bullying spreads to a traffic cop, a building security officer, or a local police officer,” says Oleg.

Perhaps the rigidity is provoked by purely physiological instincts - while waiting for a command, fighters sit for several hours on buses with the windows closed. Sorry, but I just want to go to the toilet and it’s hard to breathe.

“Yes, when you sit there for a long time, you, like any person, want to go home, to get out of the discomfort - you sit in a stuffy car for five hours. They periodically let me go to the toilet, give me water, and food too. When it’s stressful, employees work in an intensive mode, an employee can be at work for days,” says Oleg. - But this should not provoke anger - it’s not supposed to. Maybe I’m looking at it from my bell tower, but because I sat in the car for five hours, I won’t hit a person.”

At many rallies, people in civilian clothes can be seen, who sometimes provoke demonstrators, nod to the riot police, whom to detain. Oleg says that these can be people from the OMON units or from other structures.

“These could be riot police officers or employees of other units. But, as a rule, if riot police work, then people from riot police also work in civilian clothes. Because they know each other. Ordinary logic: if a person from another structure waves something at me, how do I know who he is? It's not written on it. Therefore, I will not follow his commands. Only people who interact in the same unit can work like this,” says the ex-fighter.

Career advancement

People who came out of the temporary detention facility say that riot policemen put them in layers in special vehicles, beat and stomped on the detainees.

On the subject: Protests in Belarus: 7 thousand detainees, female human chains, support from the US diaspora

“There is a police law that stipulates the use of physical force and special means. Under Vladimir Naumov, when he was Minister of Internal Affairs, they strictly asked for order No. 1 - about polite and cultural treatment of citizens. I wrote a lot of papers. If my subordinate used physical force or special means against a detainee, he wrote an explanation report: a report if he put handcuffs on, a report if he used a baton or physical force. The commander checked the legality of the actions,” says Oleg.

People leaving the temporary detention facility told about the atrocities of a certain employee of Christina: she beat men in the groin, women in the stomach.

“I read about it, but I don’t know this lady, I don’t know what structure she serves in. There are women in the riot police. At present, as far as I know, there is a women's company; as a rule, female athletes get there; priority is given to girls who have been involved in martial arts,” says Oleg.

Oleg also spoke about salaries in the OMON and how they attract new employees.

“A newly arrived employee receives about 900 Belarusian rubles ($366). Then the salary increases depending on length of service, rank, position. After six months, the new arrival receives official housing. This is important for guys from the provinces, especially in the capital. We discussed with colleagues: now guys with insufficient physical training come to the riot police, even after the army. And - to put it mildly - with insufficient education. In some departments, whistleblowing is encouraged - this is a unique way of promotion,” says Oleg.

The man also talked about adapting to a different life after leaving the OMON.

“Professional deformation always exists. It was difficult to leave. What was missing was the team in which I worked, the people who became friends. In my unit, relationships were built on respect, and I, as a commander, had to act in such a way that both in work and in everyday life the soldiers respected me, and I respected them,” recalls Oleg. — I had a very strong depression for about a month. Then... Still, a man, why complain: he left and left. You have to earn money and support your family, so I had to work as a taxi driver.”

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