All Captured on Camera: The Last Shots of the Perm OMON
Published: May 14, 2002 (Issue # 768)
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. Pages:  [2 ] [3 ] [4 ] [5 ] [6 ] [7 ] [8 ]