MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A man was beaten to death this week in what could be a rite of initiation by Russia's special police forces, the Moscow region's prosecutor's office investigating the case has said.
Viktor Kritsenkov, 30, died on April 27 in a small town's hospital just outside Moscow after seven officers from the much-feared OMON forces smashed his head and body ahead of him joining the force, media reports said.
The investigation comes just days after a Moscow policeman went on a shooting spree in a supermarket, killing three and wounding six after a family row at his birthday party, which saw the sacking of city police chief Vladimir Pronin.
The Moscow prosecutor's office said it is not considering the death of Kritsenkov as fatal hazing until it has collected all the facts.
"They might have been testing him to see if he was worthy," the prosecutor's spokeswoman Yulia Zhukova told Reuters, referring to the OMON officers suspected of carrying out the beating.
"We hope to get a result soon on what happened."
Kritsenkov's wife Yekaterina said joining OMON was her husband's dream. "You think he went to OMON to get beaten up? He had a family to raise!" she was quoted as saying by newsru.com
OMON declined to comment on Kritsenkov's death and no one has been charged.
Many of the 2,000-strong Moscow OMON fought for Russia in the two Chechnya wars after the fall of the Soviet Union. They drive armored cars, are trained for hostage situations, and know how to use over 30 types of semi-automatic weapons.
They were set up in 1987 to combat terrorism, but soon morphed into a semi-military riot police.
Their black lace-up boots, berets, and buzzcut hairstyles make them instantly recognizable for most Russians, who view them as tough, no-nonsense men.
International organizations accused the unit of severe human rights abuses in Chechnya and rights groups say they harass immigrants who come to Russia seeking labor.