A group of Russian riot police is suing for wrongful dismissal after being sacked for refusing to invade Ukraine.
Twelve officers from the Omon special police unit rebelled against the plans when they were ordered to cross the border into Ukraine on February 25, the day after President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion.
The unit had been deployed on what they thought was an exercise in Crimea when their orders changed.
“These people didn’t want to kill or be killed,” said Mikhail Benyash, lawyer for the rebel officers. “They don’t know how to shoot ground-to-air gun systems, they don’t drive tanks. What can they do against a regular army with a baton and a shield?”
Mr Putin had expected an easy victory in Ukraine and it is understood Omon units were to be used to impose his authority over captured cities.
They were never properly deployed and some, like the unit from Krasnodar, rebelled.
Pavel Chikov, a human rights lawyer, said the 12 sacked officers were within their rights to refuse to cross into Ukraine. “None of them had a passport with them, nor any intention of leaving Russia as their official duties were limited to the territory of the Russian Federation,” he said.
Other Omon units which did enter Ukraine found themselves in a chaotic war zone vulnerable to enemy attacks. Kirill Alexeev, an opposition politician in Vladimir, told how he was being interrogated at a police station when news came through that an Omon unit had been ambushed and killed in Ukraine. “They stopped the interrogation to smoke cigarettes – a moment of mourning for their friends. They said that they were good guys,” Mr Alexeev said.
Separately, reports have begun to filter through of Russian army recruiters targeting anti-war activists.
A video released on Twitter showed three recruiters issue activist Yegor Beschastnov (19) with an order to report to his local army recruitment centre. He had just left a police station in Samara after serving a 28-day detention for organising an anti-war protest.
Under a law rushed through this month, military recruiters can target anybody who protests against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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