Berkut (Ukraine)

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Squad of Militsiya of Special Assignment "Berkut"
Підрозділ Mіліції Cпеціального Призначення «Беркут»
Common nameBerkut
Berkut emblem.png
Logo of the Squad of Militsiya of Special Assignment "Berkut".
MottoБезпека народу — найвищий Закон
Security of the people — is the biggest law
Agency overview
Formed1992
Legal personalityGovernmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Governing bodyMinistry of Internal Affairs (Ukraine)
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersKiev
 
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Squad of Militsiya of Special Assignment "Berkut"
Підрозділ Mіліції Cпеціального Призначення «Беркут»
Common nameBerkut
Berkut emblem.png
Logo of the Squad of Militsiya of Special Assignment "Berkut".
MottoБезпека народу — найвищий Закон
Security of the people — is the biggest law
Agency overview
Formed1992
Legal personalityGovernmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Governing bodyMinistry of Internal Affairs (Ukraine)
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersKiev

The "Berkut" (Ukrainian: Бе́ркут) is the system of special units of the Ukrainian militia (police) within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It is Ukraine's successor to the Soviet OMON. It is semi-autonomous and is governed at the local or regional level (oblast, raion, city). Initially used to fight organized crime, it is currently used as the Police (Militsiya) for Public Security. Its full name is "Berkut" Separate Special Assignment Unit(s) of Militsiya.

There is a "Berkut" unit in every oblast and every big city of the country. Among the several special police units in Ukraine, "Berkut" became a catchall name for all the others. The main purpose of the unit is crowd control. Berkut is known to be used for racketeering purposes and for applying political pressure by physical means by local governments.

Etymology[edit]

Berkut militiamen in 2007.

The name means golden eagle or Aquila chrysaetos in the Ukrainian language, who is associated with a falconry on big mammals, particularly foxes.

History[edit]

The order to organize the OMON (Special Purpose Police Unit) in the Ukrainian SSR was issued on December 28, 1988, over a year after the establishment of the Soviet OMON back in 1987 and almost three months later after the issue of official order on October 3, 1988.[1] The first units were formed in Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, Lviv and Donetsk and were based on selected units of Soviet Internal Troops of the Ministry of Interior Affairs. After the fall of the Soviet Union it was decided to organize such units in every oblast (province) center as part of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine. On January 16, 1992 the order was issued to create quick reaction force (QRF) units "Berkut", which was fully implemented by the start of 1993.

According to Taras Kuzio (as stated in November 2012) in recent years the force has been increasingly used to intimidate anti-government demonstrators and to influence the electoral process.[2] On 30 November 2013, Berkut units in Kiev violently dispersed protestors during the Euromaidan protests.

Duties[edit]

The main duty of the unit is the security of general order or enforcement of civil order such as during any mass public activities (demonstrations, parades, sport or concert events, etc.) or in places of increased criminal activity in fight against the organized crime. Later one of few additional assignments was protection custody of physical person such as witness.

Organization[edit]

Berkut militiamen stand guard during a football match.

The Berkut is a reserve unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVS) and subordinates to the regional (oblast) departments of the MVS. Until 1997 it was under the direct supervision of HUBOZ (Chief Directorate in Fight of Organized Crime). Due to formation of another quick reaction force unit Sokil (Falcon) under HUBOZ, Berkut was later reassigned under the supervision of the Directorate of Public Security of the MVS.

Depending on the region the Berkut's battalions vary in man-power between 50 to 600. Also depending on its dislocation the unit can be commissioned as company or regiment. As of January 2008, the force consists of 2 regiments, 6 separate battalions, and 19 companies totaling 3,250 members.[3] One of the regiments is located in Kiev, while another one in Crimea.

The main distinction of the Berkut agents are their maroon berets (also known as "krapovy beret"), an honorary headgear.

Scope of activity[edit]

The Berkut is the Ukrainian successor of the Soviet OMON (Special Purpose Police Unit), responsible for high-risk police operations including hostage crises and riots. Berkut teams participated in many actions of Leonid Kuchma's regime against the opposition (see Orange Revolution). More recently, they have been breaking up crowds during the 2013 Ukraine pro-European Union protests.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]