Ukraine's Berkut Police: What Makes Them Special?

KIEV, Ukraine -- The name "Berkut", or "Golden Eagle" in Ukrainian, is synonymous with police brutality for many protesters in the capital, Kiev.

Berkut riot police shooting at Euromaidan protestors.

Berkut is an elite riot police force that has been at the forefront of recent deadly clashes there.

Its members have now been accused of beating, torturing and even shooting demonstrators.

Unprovoked attacks on journalists and medical workers have also been alleged.

Most recently, a video clip emerged, showing a naked protester apparently being abused and beaten by riot policemen who had stripped him in below-freezing temperatures.

While food and hot drinks were offered by sympathetic demonstrators to police officers and army servicemen amid the stand-off in late 2013, Berkut members have borne the brunt of anti-government ire after tensions flared up in January.

What is Berkut?

Berkut members are reported to be more carefully selected, better trained, paid and equipped than ordinary police units.

They are also said to have more senior officials as commanders.

The force was set up in 1992 and has its roots in Omon, the notoriously ruthless Soviet "special-purpose police".

Initially, Berkut's primary goal was to fight organised crime, but it has now changed to ensuring law and order during "mass events".

The Interior Ministry itself is headed by Vitaliy Zakharchenko, a steadfast supporter of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Mr Zakharchenko hails from the president's home region of Donetsk and is also reported to be close to his son, Oleksandr.

The media in Ukraine describe Berkut as an elite riot police force, whose members are carefully selected and rigorously trained.

To be accepted into Berkut, army service and at least two to three years of law-enforcement experience are said to be compulsory.

Chances of employment with Berkut increase if the applicant is an athlete with a proven track record, the media report.

Berkut has about 4,000 to 5,000 members stationed across Ukraine.

Local units are directly subordinated to the heads of regional Interior Ministry departments, instead of lower-ranking police officials such as district police chiefs.

It is not unusual for Berkut units to be dispatched from their bases to other regions.

Report say that many of them have been brought to Kiev from eastern Ukraine, which is more supportive of President Yanukovych.

Berkut members from more opposition-minded western Ukraine, meanwhile, have complained to the media that they were "mistrusted" by top commanders.

Berkut has some serious hardware at its disposal, including machine guns and armed personnel carriers.

Its members are also reportedly paid 1.5-2 times more than an average police officer. 

Source: BBC News


Igor Skakovsky said…
"Media should be responsible for their words."
"Constant media attacks on the power lead to lower efficiency of work of the authorities, Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov said in an interview with "Segodnya" Ukrainian daily.
"Constant media attacks undermine confidence in the government. Trust is the essential component of the implementation of any program. Programs of national currency stability of, energy saving, investment in housing - any large-scale program requires trust! If I do not trust the program "Affordable housing", I won’t invest in it, " Azarov said.

Therefore, according to him, trust in the government is a very important economic issue. "So, media attacks on the power must be balanced. Unfounded attacks can lead to instability, distrust. Media is often called the "fourth estate" as information channels have big power, and this power should feel responsibility, that is be responsible for their words. Everything should be confirmed with facts," PM summed up."
What government can do in such situation?
Government before releasing daily news to reporters should appoint a person who will deliver the news to reporters, that is number one.
Number two, Government should select news companies who are less aggressive in discrediting its work and develop relation ship with the reporters representing such companies. There should be not official roles in the relation ship between government and those representatives so, not grounded attacks must stop, if roles are broken by some reporters they should lose their privilege to receive new first, if company sands another reporter who would brake the roles, both reporter and company should lose the such privilege. In the group of most loyal news companies one could represent opposition but list radical one of all.
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