Order, adrenaline, psychotropic drugs: why the Belarusian OMON is behaving so cruelly
The world was covered by footage and stories of demonstrators in Belarus about harsh detentions and bullying in isolation wards. 16-year-old Timur from Minsk, according to relatives, the doctors had to put into a coma to cope with the injuries received from the riot police. In Gomel, 25-year-old Alexander Vikhor was buried on the weekend - the guy who was beaten during the arrest died without receiving medical assistance. Doctors talk about serious injuries received by protesters and bystanders after talking with law enforcement officers. Writes about it with the BBC.
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.
In the dispersal of protests in Belarus, both employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other structures not subordinate to the ministry took part - human rights activists claim that there are at least five of them in the country. Sometimes it was impossible to determine belonging to a particular structure - some of the people were in civilian clothes, and some of them did not have any identification 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 has been changed) served in the Minsk OMON for 17 years - from an ordinary soldier to an officer and unit commander. There are no “former” ones in these structures, he says.
“I came to the OMON on the eve of the first presidential election. He served in the army, where he underwent special training. In the 90s, the guys in civilian life either went to the bandits or to the police, there was not much choice. I went to the police: I was brought up in the Soviet Union, grew up on examples of heroic deeds. I went there to work for an idea - a salary of $ 30, you must agree, is not an incentive. At that time, there were many “Afghans” in the OMON - guys who passed hot spots. They formed our “code of honor”. We would never have done what it was now, in the last days. We were tough, but not cruel, ”says Oleg.
"For myself and for that guy"
“I resigned in 2010, even before the dispersal of the square (we are talking about the dispersal of demonstrators in Independence Square on the day of the presidential election on December 19, 2010). I took part in the maintenance of public order in 1996, at the “Minsk Spring”, when the cars were overturned and the “Chernobyl Shlyakh” was going. I also participated in the cleanup of the tent camp on Oktyabrskaya Square after the 2006 presidential elections, but, you must admit, there were no beatings, injuries or injuries on the demonstrators that are being reported now, ”Oleg recalls.
He also described how fighters are being prepared to break up demonstrations.
“I don't know what the fighters were told now. They really believe that they have protected the country from the Maidan. I have a connection with the people who serve there, with my former subordinates, but what is happening in the unit at the moment, I do not know. Why do people have such attacks of hatred towards the people? We didn't have that. Crowd opposition has always been adequate. If the crowd stood, no one touched. The 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 OMON officer.
“Soldiers in war are not fighting for the government, not for the leader of the country. Men in the war are fighting for the guy who was sitting next to you in the trench - and he is no longer there. The soldiers are fighting for this. And here, when the demonstrators are dispersed, the same thing works. Because when a stone flew to your partner's head, a wave of anger naturally arises in you - as in any person. Guys with shields, when they are under physical pressure, rally. They are already fighting for themselves and for the guy who suffered, ”says Oleg, explaining what happens when the demonstrators show aggression. - But I do not understand what is happening in many cases now. I understand the harsh response at the Riga supermarket, where the protesters built barricades, fought back as much as they could, throwing, according to some information, Molotov cocktails at law enforcement officers. But I don’t understand, I don’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 ”.
“Naturally, nothing is done in these units without a team. There is no self-righteousness here. Apparently, at the highest level, a command was given to suppress these performances in the most brutal way, - says Oleg. - I don't know how it can be explained now. Either the fighters were given something, but they did not tell them what could happen to them. Maybe they were given some kind of psychotropic, but they said that it was to maintain a physical condition. They did not say that the side effect is unbridled rage and the like. I do not exclude this. "
“At one time we worked in the open, we didn't even have masks. We did not have such a thing to beat a man in handcuffs - a man in handcuffs can no longer do anything to you. Simple people respected us in our time, they were afraid of scum. But there was no such hatred as these days. I understand what caused it, which gave rise to the indignation of the people, anger not only towards the riot police, but generally towards people in uniform. This is a very dangerous effect when anger, hatred and even harassment extends to a traffic policeman, a building security officer, a district police officer, ”says Oleg.
Perhaps, purely physiological instincts provoke rigidity - while waiting for the command, the fighters sit for several hours in buses with closed windows. Forgive me, but you 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, get out of the discomfort - you sit in a stuffy car for five hours. They periodically let out the toilet, give water, food too. When it's tense, employees work in an intensive mode, an employee can be at work for days, - says Oleg. - But this should not provoke anger - it is not supposed to. Maybe I look from my bell tower, but because I sat in the car for five hours, I will not 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 can be riot policemen or employees of other units. But, as a rule, if the OMON is working, then people from the OMON also work in civilian. Because they know each other. Ordinary logic: if a person from another structure waves something to 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.
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.
“There is a law on the police, which stipulates the use of physical force and special means. Under Vladimir Naumov, when he was the Minister of Internal Affairs, they were strictly asked for order number 1 - on the polite and cultural treatment of citizens. I wrote a lot of papers. If my subordinate used physical force or special means against the detainee, he wrote an explanation report: a report if he was handcuffed, 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 in what structure she serves. There are women in the OMON. At the present time, as far as I know, there is a female company; as a rule, athletes go there, priority is given to girls who were engaged 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 rises depending on the length of service, rank, position. Six months later, the newcomer receives service housing. For the guys from the provinces, this is important, especially in the capital. We discussed with colleagues: now the riot police are coming to the riot police with insufficient physical training, even after the army. And - how to put it mildly - with insufficient education. In some units, whistleblowing is encouraged - this is a kind of a 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. There was a lack of the team in which he worked, people who became friends. In my unit, relations 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. - For about a month there was a very strong depression. Then ... Still, a man, why complain: he left and left. You have to earn money, support your family - and I had to work as a taxi driver. "
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