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50 Years of Terror Tyranny and Oppression 1940–1991
Home      Appendix XX – History of the OMON
 
   
 
Appendix XX –
 
History of the OMON,
Отряд мобильный особого назначения 
 
      
                                    OMOH Shoulder Patch
 
Active: 1979–Present
Type: Special Operations
Role: Paramilitary police Riot Control, Domestic Counter-Terrorism and other Special Tasks
Anniversaries: 3 October
Engagements: January 1991 events in Lithuania 
                        January 1991 events in Latvia 
                        Lithuanian border outposts 
                        Georgian Civil War 
                        Nagorno-Karabakh War 
                        1993 Russian constitutional crisis 
                        First Chechen War 
                        Second Chechen War 
                        Jeans Revolution 
                        2008 South Ossetia war
 
OMON "Russian: Отряд мобильный особого назначения; Otryad Mobilniy Osobovo Naznacheniya, Special Purpose Mobile Unit" "ОМОН" is a generic name for the system of special units of Politsiya "Police" within the Russian and earlier the Soviet MVD "Ministry of Internal Affairs".
 
As of 2012, there is an OMON unit in every oblast of Russia, as well as in many major cities; for example, there is an OMON unit within the Moscow City police department, and two separate units within Moscow Oblast police department. OMON also continues to exist in Belarus and some other post-Soviet territories following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
 
Following the Russia's 2011 police reform, part of which was its renaming from Militsiya to Politsiya "police", the Russian OMON units were to be renamed Distinctive Purpose Teams "KON", while OMSN would become Special Purpose Teams "KSN". It was announced that such Special Purpose Centers for Rapid Deployment forces will be also created in Russian regions, to include regional OMON and OMSN units. In essence, all police spetsnaz units will be brought together under the joint command of the Interior Ministry the Center for Operational Spetsnaz and Aviation Forces of MVD "Центр специального назначения сил оперативного реагирования и авиации МВД России".
 
In January 2012, the OMON was renamed from Otryad Militsii Osobogo Naznacheniya - Russian: Отряд милиции особого назначения, "Special Purpose Militsiya Unit" to Otryad Mobilniy Osobogo Naznacheniya "Special Purpose Mobile Unit", keeping the abbreviation.
 
History
 
OMON originated in 1979, when the first group was founded in preparation for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, to ensure that there were no terrorist attacks like the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics. Subsequently, the unit was utilized in emergencies such as high-risk arrests, hostage crises, as well as in response to acts of terrorism. The OMON detachments were often manned by former soldiers of the Soviet Army and veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
 
The OMON system itself is the successor of that group and was founded in 1987, with the commando duties largely taken over by the SOBR "dangerous criminals" and Vityaz "counter-terrorism" units of the MVD. The OMON units were initially used as the riot police used to control and stop demonstrations and hooliganism, as well as other emergency situations, but later became accustomed to a wider range of police operations, including cordon and street patrol actions, and even paramilitary and military-style operations.
 
High-profile Operations

On 20 January 1991, the Soviet Riga OMON attacked Latvia's Interior Ministry, killing six people during the January 1991 events following the republic's declaration of independence. Seven OMON members were subsequently found guilty by the Riga District Court and received sentence in absentia.

A series of attacks on border outposts of the newly-independent Republic of Lithuania during the January–July 1991, resulting in several summary execution-style deaths of the unarmed customs officers and other people "including former members of Vilnius OMON", were attributed to Riga OMON; some sources say that the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had lost control of the unit. Lithuanian government continues to demand that the persons suspected in these incidents should be tried in Lithuania; one suspect was arrested in Latvia in November 2008. 

Violent and often armed clashes between the Georgian SSR's OMON and the opponents of the first Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia prior to the Georgian Civil War of 1991–1993.

The April–May 1991 Operation Ring by the Azerbaijan SSR OMON and the Soviet Army against the Armenian irregular units in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, resulting in several dozen people killed and the forced displacement of thousands of ethnic Armenians.

Prior to the creation of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the bulk of the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh on the Azeri side was conducted by the post-Soviet OMON units and irregular forces. This included the defense of the village of Khojaly by the force of Azeri OMON and volunteers against the Armenian insurgents and the Russian Army forces prior and during the Khojaly massacre on 25 February 1992; most of the group involved died during the ensuing slaughter in which several hundred of Azeri civilians died.

The Moscow OMON and units brought from the other cities clashed with the anti-Yeltsin demonstrators order during the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, reportedly even beating up some members of the Supreme Soviet of Russia "the Russian parliament at the time".

Cordon duties during the Russia's mass hostage crises, including the 1995 Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis, the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis and the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis.

Breaking up of several opposition rallies "including Dissenters' Marches since 2006", sparking reports of police brutality, including excessive use of force and arbitrary detention of participants. In November 2007, the brutal actions of OMON against peaceful demonstrators and arrests of opposition figures were harshly criticized by the European Union institutions and governments.

On 24 March 2006, Belarusian OMON stormed the opposition's tent camp at the Minsk October Square without provocation, violently ending the peaceful Jeans Revolution against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Thousands of people were beaten and hundreds detained as the result of the attack, including the opposition's presidential candidate Alaksandr Kazulin.

In June 2007, the Moscow OMON prevented gay rights activists "including the European Parliament members" from marching after Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov did not allow a planned parade to take place.

In August 2008, the South Ossetian separatist OMON took part in the fighting with the Georgian Armed Forces during the 2008 South Ossetia war and were accused of "special cruelty" in the ethnic Georgian villages. Subsequently, South Ossetian OMON fighters were included into Russian regular forces in area as a contract soldiers and continued to be deployed in the highly-disputed Akhalgori zone.

In Chechnya
 
The force was active in the First Chechen War where the unit was used as light infantry and in the notorious "mopping-up" operations "zachistka". In February 1996, a group of 37 officers of the Novosibirsk OMON were captured by the Chechen militants during the Kizlyar-Pervomayskoye hostage crisis; 17 of them were later swapped for the Chechen fighters captured in the same incident. In August 1996, group of 30 Chechen OMON members answering to Said-Magomed Kakiyev were reportedly captured and executed in Grozny, the Chechen capital, during the battle for the city.
 
OMON is active in the Second Chechen War. Almost every Russian city sends, on a regular basis, small units of police "often composed of OMON members" for tours of duty in Chechnya lasting several months, while the Chechen Republic also formed its own OMON detachment. The force sustained heavy losses in the second conflict as well, including from the March 2000 ambush which killed more than 30 OMON servicemen from Perm "including nine captured and executed", the July 2000 suicide bombing which inflicted more than 100 casualties at the Chelyabinsk OMON base in Argun, and the April 2002 attack which killed 21 Chechen OMON troops in central Grozny. 
 
Control and discipline is questionable in Chechnya, where the members of the group were noted to engage in or fall victim of several deadly friendly fire and fratricide incidents. In the bloodiest incident, at least 24 Russian OMON officers were killed and more than 30 wounded when two units "from Podolsk and Sergiyev Posad" fired on each other in Grozny on 2 March 2000. Among other incidents, several Chechen OMON servicemen were abducted and executed in Grozny by the Russian military servicemen in November 2000, members of the Chechen OMON clashed with the Ingush police on the Chechen-Ingush border resulting in eight fatalities and about 20 injuries in September 2006, and the Ramzan Kadyrov-controlled Chechen OMON clashed with a group of rival Chechens belonging to the Kakiyev's GRU commando unit in Grozny, resulting in five dead and several wounded in 2007.
 
In the course of the Chechen conflict the OMON was accused of severe human rights abuses, including abducting, torturing and killing civilians. As of 2000, the bulk of war crimes recorded by international organizations in Chechnya appeared to have been committed by the OMON. An OMON detachment from Moscow region took part in the April 1995 rampage in the village of Samashki, during which up to 300 civilians were reportedly killed in the result of a "cleansing operation" conducted there by the MVD forces. The OMON unit from Saint Petersburg is also believed to be behind the Novye Aldi massacre in which at least 60 civilians were robbed and then killed by the Russian forces entering Grozny in February 2000; one officer, Sergei Babin, was reported to be prosecuted in relation to the case in 2005 and then to disappear. In 1999 a group of unidentified OMON members shot dead around 40 refugees fleeing Grozny.
 
In April 2006, the European Court of Human Rights found Russia guilty of the forced disappearance of Shakhid Baysayev, a Chechen man who had gone missing after being detained in a March 2000 security sweep by the Russian OMON in Grozny. In 2007, the Khanty–Mansi OMON officer Sergei Lapin was sentenced for kidnapping and torture of a Chechen man in Grozny in 2001, with the Grozny court criticizing the conduct of the OMON serving in Chechnya in broader terms. In an event related to the conflict in Chechnya, several OMON officers were accused of starting the May 2007 wave of the ethnic violence in Stavropol by assisting in the racist murder of a local Chechen man.
 
Before and early during the First and Second Chechen Wars, there were also OMON formations belonging the Interior Ministry of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Chechnya's separatist government.
 
OMON in Russia
 
      
 Two Russian OMON Special Police Officers in the Red Square, Moscow in 2006
 
Information from different sources suggests that there were between 10,500 and 15,000 OMON members stationed at population centers and transportation hubs around the country in the 1990s, yet by 2007 this number officially rose to about 20,000 nationwide "as referenced to as Inner Armed Forces". The biggest OMON unit in Russia Moscow OMON has over 2000 members. Members receive a comparatively small salary of about $7,000 per month in Moscow "regional units offer less". Most members retire at the age of approximately 45 years. They are also sometimes not paid for their service in "2001, for example, some 50 OMON members from Moscow filed the lawsuit claiming they were not paid for one month of combat operations in Chechnya". Due to the use of OMON members in high risk situations, especially in Chechnya and elsewhere in North Caucasus, the group often loses members in combat.
 
Members of OMON are supposed to be extremely fit and experts in small arms and hand-to-hand combat. Males between the ages of 22 and 30 who have completed their two-year military service can apply to join OMON "the application includes medical and psychological tests, and tests of speed and fitness". The initial training lasts for four months. The applicants are extensively trained in the use of different weaponry and close combat, and are also trained to follow orders at any cost. Special emphasis is put on urban combat and the entering and clearing of buildings. The training also includes legal training. The application procedure closes with a final test, where the applicant has to fight three to five trained members of OMON by hand wearing boxing gloves. Fewer than one in five applicants pass and are selected to join.
 
The OMON groups use a wide range of weapons, including but not limited to AK-74 assault rifle, AKS-74U carbine assault rifle, 9A-91 compact assault rifle, and PP-19 Bizon submachine gun. OMON units during a combat operations may also use other weaponry typical for the Russian light infantry (the OMON troops in Chechnya were sometimes called "OMON soldiers" in the reports, especially in the so-called active phases of the conflict", such as the PK machine gun, the GP-25 under barrel grenade launcher for AK-74 or the GM-94 pump-action grenade launcher, and the Dragunov and Vintorez sniper rifles.
 
OMON vehicles include specially-equipped vans, buses and trucks of various types, as well as limited number of armored personnel carriers "BTR-60, BTR-70 and BTR-80". "OMON's headgear remains a black beret" they are thus sometimes called "Black Berets" although otherwise there were significant changes in uniform and insignia. The group members often use the blue urban camouflage uniforms and black face masks while on duty, and various Russian Army and Internal Troops uniforms while in Chechnya. OMON of the Chechen Republic also frequently wear American-made military uniforms similar to these often used by the separatist fighters.
 
OMSN
    
     A group of Russian paramilitary soldiers from the Internal Troops' 7th OSN
     Rosich posing with an Orthodox priest and their flag that is also featuring a
     Maroon Beret in 2005
 
The OMSN Otryad Militsii Spetsial'nogo Naznacheniya, "Special Police Unit", formerly known as the Special Rapid Response Unit or SOBR "Russian"  специальные отряды быстрого реагирования = Spetsial'nye Otryady Bystrogo Reagirovaniya", is a spetsnaz unit of the Russian Interior Ministry "MVD". SOBR also continues to exist in Belarus and as of 2006 was headed by Dmitri Pavlichenko.
 
OMSN was initially formed as SOBR on 10 February 1992, and was subordinated to the "Directorate for combating the Organized Crime" under the MVD.
 
SOBR units were composed of senior-ranking police officers, better trained than the members of OMON "which is a cross between riot police and paramilitary police", and tasked with SWAT type special operations under the jurisdiction of MVD. They also fought during the wars in Chechnya.
 
On 16 September 2002, the SOBR was in the process of being dissolved and the SOBR units have been reclassified as OMSN and subordinated to the regional criminal police offices. Due to the popularity of the name, as well as the similarities between SOBR and OMSN, the OMSN is usually still referred to as SOBR by both its officers and civilians alike.
 
Since the establishment of the SKR, Investigative Committee, the unit is cooperating with the Federal investigative authorities.
 
      
                                   Moscow OMSM Shoulder Patch
 
In 2007 , in Russia there were 87 units OMSN, counting over 5,000 officers stationed in major Russian cities, the most famous unit of the formation is OMSN "Richie" Russian "ОМСН "Рысь", established in 1992, which since its inception participated in almost all known special operations in Russia.