It is highly unlikely that you will encounter them in everyday life. In civilian clothes, they’re unrecognizable. And when in action, it is best to not run into them. If they’ve hit the road, that means something serious has happened, and it is best not to get in their way.
We met the soldiers from the Motorized OMON division of Yekaterinburg last Fall. Back then, they were busy with training. This time, we will get to know them a little better. The eyes are hidden, the names are not revealed. These are standard security measures. In regards to what they do day-to-day, nobody can explain better than the soldiers themselves, and their commanders. While the photographer brings the light, the Major reveals a few secrets in the following interview..
-What are some of the tasks that the Motorized OMON division is involved in?
-First of all, complete mobility to ensure excellent performance by the division for tasks ranging from daily life to carrying out combat missions in the Caucasus. The entire company takes part in these missions, and the transports are involved, as well.
-Do your soldiers travel to the Caucasus often?
-The first campaign that we partook in full was in the North Caucasus. The second campaign (from 1999 to present) is also taking place there. We have been going there on a regular basis for 11 years now. Each service trip: 180 days.
-Who gets to serve with you guys?
-The drivers’ company has its requirements, OMON, as a whole, has its own. But all of them, of course, are very physically healthy guys who served in the armed forces, with health category “A” (without restrictions). And, of course, the main requirement is desire! For them to want to take part in the daily activities of the detachment.
The total number of vehicles and all of the models that are housed in the garage of the Motorized OMON division is not revealed. But we got to see a few of the vehicles, including specially equipped Kamaz trucks, vehicles with water cannons (hello protesters!) and the beauty and pride of not only this division, but of Russia’s automobile industry as a whole: the Tiger. This GAZ-2330 is of one of the more common modifications: 8 seats, the same suspension as the one found on the BTR, self-inflating tires, level 5 armor protection, and a powerful 279 hp diesel engine. Of course, the engine is not very patriotic: it is an American Cummins diesel. But at least, with its power, it can help the vehicle overcome any obstacles and reach speeds of up to 140 km/hr on a flat road.
-What kind of rounds can the armor withstand?
-Machine gun rounds of a caliber of up to 7.62 mm.
-Have they already been shot at?
-The vehicle’s frame consists of armor plates, each has its own factory number, and each is shot at the factory for verification. If you look closely at the chassis, you will see.
The tires, of course, are not protected by anything. But if a stray bullet hits the tire, it can be saved by the driver. The automatic pumping system can keep pumping the tires constantly, allowing the vehicle to move forward. In non-combat conditions, the system is needed to adjust the tires for various terrain. Sometimes, the tires need to be lightly deflated to move with maximum contact, and sometimes, the tires need to be pumped up to give the vehicle maximum ground clearance. A spare wheel is located in the back. Judging by the look, it seems to weigh 100 kg, but fear has big eyes, so I asked the driver:
-How many people are needed to change wheels during battle?
-If needed, one can do it. It’s not that difficult.
I continued the interview with the Major:
-In what conditions are these vehicles used?
-In any kind, ranging from rallies and demonstrations, to counter-terrorism operations.
-How often are they used?
-Whenever the situation escalates.
-What are some of the toughest conditions you recall the vehicle being used in?
-If we’re talking about real life situations, rather than training, during the massive uprising in a Kirovgrad jail in 2007. The Tigers were used, and they proved themselves. The Tiger has a heavily armored chassis, which allowed for the safe transportation of people out of hot spots. The Tiger provided cover when shields couldn’t. The Tiger can carry 8 men, and can also fire on the move. For such purposes, there are loopholes in the windows and two hatches on the roof, which are rather broad. There have been cases where soldiers popped out of these hatches to fire RPG’s, though such cases were rare.
-Do these vehicles often leave fully equipped with 8 men?
-It all depends on the situation. When the group has to perform dangerous missions, such as dispersing a riot or engaging armed militants, than yes, 8 men will ride.
-What category of license would you need to operate such a vehicle?
-Honestly, even we don’t know. It has over 8 seats for passengers, so in that respect its category is “D”. But if you consider it as a special purpose vehicle, than probably category “B”. And if you judge it according to its weight, than it’s a category “C”. But our drivers have licenses for every category, so it’s not a problem.
-Do the drivers undergo any kind of special training?
-Yes, standard training for the operation of armored vehicles. We accept drivers who are licensed for categories “A” through “E”. Also depending on what missions they will carry out, they will receive additional training ranging from driving a BTR to operating a boat.
Only the most advanced technology is used, and thus, extensive training is required. Besides the combat equipment, there are also cameras that capture everything that is happening, so that it would be easy to later on prove the legality of the measures that the soldiers take (for regular police duties).
-Are the drivers capable of performing maintenance right in the heat of battle?
-That’s exactly what they do. They are specially trained for that.
The Motorized OMON division has a very important task: delivering a squad of soldiers to hot spots. Regardless of whether the point of destination is in the mountains or in a swamp, it must be reached. By the way, do you see the soldiers? No? Well they’re there, just hidden. At the OMON training complex, we asked the guys to show us an example of interaction between various units of riot police. For example, a situation that requires the capture of a building. Preferably, one held by terrorists. Our wish was granted. The assigned task of the drivers of the Motorized division is to deliver the OMON soldiers to the objective. The doors swing open in the blink of an eye and soldiers storm out and take position at the doors of the objective. The lock snaps and the men rush inside in a perfect order and…
Clear the building of enemy combatants. This is in training. But what about in a real situation? A lot harder.
More photos here.