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All Captured on Camera: The Last Shots of the Perm OMON

Published: May 14, 2002 (Issue # 768)



  • Eight of the 10 service personnel captured by Chechen rebels after an attach on March 29, 2000, near Dzhanei-Vedeno.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

On March 29, 2000, an OMON detachment serving in Chechnya was ambushed by rebel forces, who killed 42 of the 49 soldiers in the column. Now, photos and video footage seen by The St. Petersburg Times shed light on the human tragedy that lies behind the statistics. By Nabi Abdullaev.

BEREZNIKI, Perm Region - When he left for his first mission in Chechnya in February 2000, Sergei Udachin, a 37-year-old OMON officer, took along a cheap Kodak camera.

Before he was killed near the village of Dzhanei-Vedeno in one of the most painful episodes of the military campaign in Chechnya, Udachin had used up about half a roll of film.

He had someone take snapshots of him and his comrades: around a table celebrating a birthday, posing on their bunks in a Chechen kindergarten, standing with their weapons outside their Vedeno headquarters.

The rest of the roll was shot by a Chechen rebel who picked the camera off of Udachin's body. He used it to document troops the rebels had killed and taken prisoner in their attack.

Udachin's family and fellow OMON officers in Berezniki, a polluted industrial town in the north Urals, were to see the photographs only two years later. They said the camaraderie between the men, so visible in the early photographs, was what led them to Chechnya and what still keeps the town's OMON officers going back in spite of the horrors of the war.

Surrounded by birch woods, Berezniki continues to nurse its wounds from March 29, 2000, when 23 of its 101 OMON officers were killed in the attack near Dzhanei-Vedeno.

The rebels, commanded by Abu-Quteiba, a warlord of Arab origin, also killed 19 others: three OMON officers and nine regular police officers from Perm city, six army conscripts and one police officer from Vedeno.

Only seven men from a column of 49 survived to tell the tale. The rebels killed 31 men on the spot, and one wounded OMON officer was later found dead under a nearby bridge. The rebels took 10 men prisoner, later offering to trade them for Colonel Yury Budanov, who was in military custody on charges of murdering a young Chechen woman. The offer was turned down, and the mutilated bodies of the prisoners were either found near the battle site or bought from locals.

"That day a column led by Mayor Valentin Simonov left from Vedeno, where we were based, to the village of Tsentoroi to conduct a mopping-up operation there," recalled Colonel Sergei Gaba, the head of the Perm city OMON, who commanded the 100-member combined team of the Perm region's Interior Ministry forces on its 18th mission to Chechnya.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg’s showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the team’s website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literature’s most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poet’s birthday. The tragic tenor’s work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russia’s greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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