The eXile’s Alexander Zaitchik gives his account of OMON’s May 10th showcase to the media. Here’s a taste:
If you saw any of the next-day press accounts of the OMON event, you know it was no normal press conference. It was a well-choreographed martial arts and machine gun extravaganza that left ears ringing and minds reeling. In the Guardian‘s laconic words, it was “at the odder end of the spectrum.”
Or as we say in America, “at the pretty fucking awesome end of the spectrum.” Upon arrival we were taken to a five-story building with its windows blown out. It was obviously a stage for practicing Beslan-style hostage scenarios, and judging from the results of Beslan, OMON could use the practice. Atop the roof was a unit of masked OMON, looking a lot like those iconic images of unofficial Palestinian Olympiads at Munich. They stared down at the sea of cameras and waited for the signal. They waited a long time. We all did. An hour passed before they finally fell over the edge and frogcrawled down the side of the building. They demonstrated a series of synchronized flips before swinging Spidey-style through the third floor windows, AK’s blazing and concussion bombs rolling. Smoke poured out of the building and we were left to imagine how many hypothetical hostages survived the rescue. My guess is not many.
There was light applause. I thought the day had peaked and expected to be led to a conference room or something. But no, OMON was just getting started.
We were then directed to an asphalt exercise yard, where a 20-gun AK salute signaled the start of the real show. By salute I don’t mean a single shot fired from each gun. This was an OMON salute, entire rainbow clips were emptied over our heads, Beirut-style. The air was still full of smoke when the techno kicked in. Loud, dark techno. Energized by the soundtrack, the officers paired off and sparred to the mock death in the middle of the yard. It was a blood-pumping blizzard of snapped necks, roundhouse kicks, pile drivers, body slams, and multiple redundant close-range AK and pistol blasts (they used blanks). Things took a sharper turn for the weird with the smashing of suspended jugs of water and flaming bricks. There was even a carnie trick: Knives were dropped onto the belly of a shirtless OMONet as he lay on a bed of cut metal and crushed glass.
Then another 20 clips were emptied over the heads of confused but secretly elated journalists. For the Western press at least, the day so far was not just a bizarre attempt at media handling, but a pornographic snapshot of the hottest babes in Putin’s “increasingly authoritarian” state. The story wrote itself in gunpowder: Russia’s infamous attack dogs, so recently unleashed on the country’s fledgling democracy movement, today gathered the media to demonstrate their love of and skill at inflicting pain and death. Didn’t OMON Major General Alexander Ivanin — who MC’d the sparring by yelling into a mic over the techno — didn’t he describe the show as “a warning”? A warning to whom? It was almost too good, too dark, too weird to be true.
Then, before anyone could make sense of what they had just seen, an OMON K-9 was brought out and instructed to gently lift a cat by the neck. Huh? Dozens of fierce OMON demonstrate 100 ways to crush vertebrae and riddle motionless bodies with machine gun fire, followed by a dog and kitten show. What could it all possibly mean?
“At the pretty fucking awesome end of the spectrum” indeed. How do you say bitchin’ in Russian?