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Russian special purpose regiments or Spetsnaz, Specnaz (Russian: Войска специального назначения, (спецназ, pronounced [spʲɪtˈsnas]) tr: Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya; pronounced [ˈvojskə spʲɪtsɨˈalʲnəvə nəznɐˈtɕenʲɪjə]) is a general term for "special forces" in Russian, literally "special purpose". These Russian special forces can specifically refer to any elite or special purpose units under subordination of the Federal Security Service (FSB) or Internal Troops of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the units controlled by the military intelligence service GRU. Currently, the term is used as well to describe any special purpose units or task forces of other ministries (even the Emergency Situations Ministry special rescue unit) [1] Foreign special forces are also commonly referred to as Spetsnaz on Russian television, for example "American Spetsnaz." Spetsnaz specialists have trained the Republican Guard of Syria, Iraq and Iran and they have been involved in training other special forces units across the world

Internal troop units of the Cheka were originally raised for internal use against counter-revolutionaries and other undesirables; the most acclaimed is the Vityaz (MVD). Today they carry the same role as gendarmerie or National Guard units in other countries.

In the Armed Forces, spetsnaz is a term mainly used in connection with GRU-controlled COMINT, ELINT and radio-surveillance units. Spetsnaz carry out reconnaissance and "social warfare" missions in "peacetime" as well as in war. The primary function of Spetsnaz troops in wartime was infiltration/insertion behind enemy lines (either in uniform or civilian clothing), usually well before hostilities were scheduled to begin and, once in place, to commit acts of sabotage (such as the destruction of vital NATO communications logistics centers) and the assassination of key government leaders and military officers. According to Vladimir Rezun, a GRU defector who used the pseudonym "Viktor Suvorov", there were 20 Spetsnaz brigades plus 41 separate companies. Thus, the total strength of Spetsnaz forces was around 30,000 troops at the time. Currently, their numbers are around 15,000.

Contents [hide]*1 Federal Security Service units
    • 1.1 Alpha Group
    • 1.2 Vympel
    • 1.3 Special Operations Service
    • 1.4 Regional units
  • 2 Ministry of Interior units
    • 2.1 Internal Troops
    • 2.2 Militia
  • 3 Russian special army forces
  • 4 Russian language use
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Sources
  • 8 External links

Federal Security Service unitsEdit

Main article: FSB (Russia)The Center of Special Operations (CSN) of the FSB is designed to combat terrorism and to protect the constitutional order in the Russian Federation. The CSN FSB consists of 3 different "operative" subdivisions - Department A (also known as spetsgruppa "Alfa"), Department V (also known as spetsgruppa "Vympel"), and so-called SSO (Special Operations Service). The headquarters of CSN FSB is a huge complex of buildings and training areas (dozens of hectares worth of land, 76 training facilities, etc.). It is located in the town of Balashikha-2, only 10 km away from the Moscow ring. The average training of a solid CSN operative lasts about 5 years.

Alpha GroupEdit

"Alfa" is a well-known counter-terrorist unit begun in 1974. Today "Alfa" is a highly professional unit, which consists of roughly 700 servicemen. The majority of the unit is stationed at Moscow, the rest of the unit is located in three other cities - Krasnodar, Yekaterinburg, and Khabarovsk. All the "Alfa" operatives undergo special airborne and firearms training. Roughly one third of them have special mountain training; another third have special counter-sabotage diving training. The unit utilizes a wide range of modern Russian and foreign weapons and equipment, some modified from the original versions to fit the unique needs of the unit.


"Vympel" (the Pennant) – formerly known as an elite cold war-era KGB sabotage and assassination unit – is now also a counter-terrorist and counter-sabotage unit. But, unlike "Alfa", instead of learning how to storm airplanes and buses, they operate in an entirely different environment. They are experts in 18 special disciplines (among which - how to infiltrate guarded buildings, extensive marksmanship and martial arts training, driving APCs and flying airplanes, and medical training) and are Russia's last defense against possible terrorist acts involving nuclear plants, hydroelectric dams, and other industrial complexes. However, "Vympel" operatives are still heavily used in special operations missions in the Northern Caucasus, along with their counterparts from "Alfa" unit. "Vympel" has 4 operative units, "Alfa" has 5 operative units. One unit from each Department is always participating in offensive operations in Chechnya. They constantly rotate their troops, and each operative unit is stationed in Chechnya at least 2-3 times per year. "Vympel" is stationed in Moscow, but it also has multiple branch offices in virtually every city where there is a nuclear power plant.

Department A and V operatives' standard BDU color is black. However, in Chechnya they use different kinds of camouflage such as the official woodland camouflage, "Flora".

Special Operations ServiceEdit

[1][2]Special Operations Service - Not much information about SOS can be obtained, but it is known that they also participate in FSB special operations in the Northern Caucasus and also act as highly skilled bodyguards for government officials.

Regional unitsEdit

Together with Center of Special Operations and its elite units, there are many FSB special forces units of regional significance. Such operative detachments are usually called ROSN (Regional Department of Special Designation). The most powerful ROSNs are said to be at Saint Petersburg (ROSN "Grad") and Nizhny Novgorod.

Ministry of Interior unitsEdit

Internal TroopsEdit

Spetnaz MVD includes 25 Internal Troops units, which are of good quality and intended for use to combat insurgency, border security and for counter-terrorism purposes. These units usually have a unique name and official OSN number. The following is a partial list of the spetsnaz units:

  • 1st PSN (former 6th OSN) VV "Vityaz" - stationed in Moscow;
  • 7th OSN VV "Rosich" - Novocherkassk;
  • 8Th OSN VV "Rus" - Moscow;
  • 12th OSN VV "Ratnik" - Nizhni Tagil;
  • 15th OSN VV "Vyatich" - Armavir;
  • 16th OSN VV "Skif" - Rostov.

They are generally well-trained and equipped, being far superior to the regular Russian infantry. Their missions may include reconnaissance missions and regular combat operations (mostly house-to-house CQB assaults). They (especially "Vitjaz") have sometimes served as the back-up team during the counter-terrorist operations by team "Alpha". Such as United States Army Rangers working with 1st SFOD-D (aka "Delta Force").


Aside from the Interior troops special forces, MVD has plenty of Militsiya (police) special forces, which are stationed in virtually every large Russian city. While OMON units are mostly used as riot police and during drug busts, they are not really considered a significant counter-terrorist force and simply lack the sufficient expertise. For these reasons MVD has numerous OMSN units (formerly known as SOBR), which consist of senior ranked police officers and are properly trained and equipped to combat terrorists, insurgency, and to participate in any kind of high-risk mission in general.

Russian special army forcesEdit

Main article: Spetsnaz GRU

[3][4]A Soviet Spetsnaz team prepares for a mission at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan in 1988Spetsnaz GRU, or Russian army special forces, are considered the best trained units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The Spetsnaz have created a fierce reputation as one of the best special forces in the world today due to the very harsh standards of their training. They are controlled by the GRU. The units of Spetsnaz GRU have no official names, such as the case with units of MVD Spetsnaz. They are generally referred to by unit numbers, for example, "16th Separate Brigade of Spetsnaz", much like any other military unit.

Few details are actually known about the operations of Spetsnaz GRU, but it is known that the units were heavily involved in operations in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Spetnaz GRU teams usually wear standard-issue VDV uniforms, light blue VDV berets and unit patches in order to avoid identification. However, they can also wear different uniforms, for instance, they would wear the uniform of a unit which is stationed nearby, in order to blend in.

Russian language useEdit

The words "spetsnaz" and "osnaz", both short for "special purpose" (spetsialnogo or osobogo naznacheniya), are a general term used for a variety of special forces or regular forces assigned to special tasks. They are syllabic abbreviations typical for the Russian language of the early Soviet era, although many Cheka and Internal Troops units such as OMSDON used a special purpose designation in their full names.

Modern terminology mostly uses "spetsnaz" abbreviation to refer to special purpose forces, however, the widespread use of this word is actually a relatively recent, post-perestroika development in the Russian language. The existence of these special forces units was not known to the general public during the Soviet era. In a sense, this became yet another state secret that was published during the glasnost of the Gorbachev's perestroika. There were a number of well-known books written about the Spetsnaz, the best known of these being "Aquarium" by Viktor Suvorov, a GRU agent who defected to England.

Suvorov also wrote a book specifically on the subject. The stories about the Spetsnaz and their allegedly incredible prowess, from the more serious to the highly questionable, have captivated imaginations of the more patriotic, and perhaps less critical, Russians, particularly being set against the background of a generally known decay in the Russian military during perestroika and the post-Soviet era. It merits noting that the great interest in all things Spetsnaz ran parallel to the similarly intense interest in all things related to intelligence, KGB, etc. The popularity of Spetsnaz was all the more enhanced by the reports of their very real accomplishments during Russia's second campaign in Chechnya starting in 2000.

At the turn of the 21st century, many of what would be generally considered as inaccuracies were written about Spetsnaz, GRU, KGB, and similar "top secret" and "exciting" topics. The word "Spetsnaz" was sometimes frivolously used to refer to anything the speaker deemed somehow special or exclusive. For example, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a well-known populist and nationalist politician, once referred to his and his political party comrades' going for a swim at a party-organized festival as a "Spetsnaz on the water", while speaking on camera. This somewhat intentionally extreme incident should give some sense of the extent the term has been debased for many people.

Nowadays, in Russia "spetsnaz" have become a colloquial term gradually losing its umbrella function; special operations became much more commonplace, be it a police drug raid, terrorist scenario or military operation. Heavy news coverage of such events allowed the public to address these units by name - OMON, SOBR, Alfa, Vympel, Vityaz and so forth. The Interior Ministry units like OMON are especially close to everyday life now, as they are acting as riot police and SWAT, so they're even less likely to be called Spetsnaz. The word itself is always spelled in lower case in Russian, even when referring to the GRU Spetsnaz.

In the United States, despite the focus on the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is still some training conducted at Fort Irwin's National Training Center and Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center for countering Spetsnaz in the rear areas of NATO[citation needed]. More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, Spetsnaz forces are still regarded as a credible threat.

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