MOSCOW – RUSSIA’S interior ministry on Wednesday accused journalists of sensationalism and printing ‘lies’ after a magazine alleged that elite riot police had kidnapped migrant workers to use as slave labour.
Media outlets are carrying out a ‘far-reaching informational campaign aimed at discrediting’ the OMON riot police, the ministry said in a statement distributed through the Interfax news agency.
‘Certain representatives of the media in their pursuit of so-called ‘hot stories’ print what they know to be lies,’ ministry spokesman Oleg Yelnikov said in the statement. Yelnikov said he was referring to The New Times, an opposition weekly that has printed two articles about abuse of power in the OMON riot police based on testimony from former and current officers.
The OMON have long been perceived as the elite of Russia’s police force and are known for breaking up opposition protests. In the latest article, published Monday, The New Times alleged OMON police in the Moscow region regularly seized migrant workers and forced them to work on police construction projects without wages, citing a retired officer.
The source for the article, retired dog handler Larisa Krepkova, said riot police had beaten and seized migrant workers who touted for work beside a highway. The workers were forced to carry out building and cleaning work at an OMON base in the Moscow region in 2006 and 2007, alleged Krepkova, who retired from the force in 2008.
Workers were also forced to work on dachas belonging to police chiefs, she alleged, saying she had seen migrant workers at the dacha of deputy interior minister Mikhail Sukhodolsky. The ministry ‘will examine the article for legal violations,’ Sukhodolsky said in a statement posted on the Interior Ministry website Tuesday. — AFP