Article “vilifies” Russian special forces - Interior Ministry spokesman

Russia’s Interior Ministry says another article in The New Times magazine about the OMON is aimed at “vilifying” Russia’s special forces. The publication accuses the OMON of exploiting guest laborers.

“Analysis of the article shows it contains public accusations aimed at Zubr commanders over the use of slave labour, which is a gross crime under the Russian Criminal Code," Interior Ministry spokesperson Oleg Yelnikov was quoted as saying on Monday by Itar-Tass.

“Defects, brought to light by the journalists, help us to bring discipline in our structures, especially now, when reform [of Russia’s Interior ministry] is on its way. However, while writing negative facts, most professional journalists are running a thorough check on incoming information, whereas certain representatives of the mass-media, in the chase for so–called “hot news”, are telling lies, casting a slur upon others, and pay no attention to their own reputation”, Yelnikov said on Tuesday.

According to the article, headlined “Zubr on the hunt,” the Russian special forces unit “Zubr” – Russian for “Bison” – forced guest laborers to work on the houses of police bosses and make repairs at the unit’s facilities.

The New Times alleged forced laborers worked for free at the unit’s facilities, allowing the unit to sign off funding as if it was going to contractors.

The article cited Larisa Krepkova, who served six years as a dog specialist for the “Zubr,” as saying that guest workers were treated as “slaves” and beaten if they attempted to run away.

She said she also saw guest laborers working at a holiday home belonging to First Deputy Interior Minister Colonel General Mikhail Sukhodolsky.

Lieutenant General Vladimir Gorshukov, head of the center for special police units, claimed: "These are private statements of ex-member of the forces who had problems with discipline and wasn’t in line with demands placed on sub-units, and as a result she was dismissed.”

“Police carefully checked the information printed in the New Times magazine, by instruction of the First Deputy Interior Minister Mikhail Sukhodolsky. The check is completed. It has not confirmed the facts published in the above article," he said.

Concerning the allegations of using slave labor, Major General Aleksandr Ivanin said that all the work on capital construction, reconstruction and renovation was performed by contracting organizations, adding that “all the works have been paid for”.

The New Times article is not the first to make such accusations. Earlier in February the magazine published an article headlined “The Slaves of OMON,” which leveled serious accusations against the chiefs of another special forces unit.

According to the magazine, the staff was overworked and forced to guard businessmen and criminal leaders.

The OMON, in response, filed a lawsuit against the magazine saying it was seeking to protect its honor and dignity. According to the Interior Ministry, no evidence supporting the accusations in the article was found.