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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

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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