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The facts that we don’t know about Russian special operations forces.

  • 26 March 2017 19:42:57
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The Russian special operations forces remain one of the densest structures in the Russian Defense Ministry.
Recently, the subject of the Russian special operation forces is very popular in the Russian and foreign mass media. Especially now, when the operation on liberation of Palmyra has successfully come to the end. The commander of the Russian group in Syria, colonel general Andrey Kartapolov, admitted that fighters of Russian special operations forces have played the major role in this operation.
Meanwhile, the denseness of the Command of Special Operation Forces (CSOF) has played a nasty trick upon it. Units and divisions of command became a target of unfair journalists and various “Internet researches”. Mythical “deeds” in the southeast of Ukraine are attributed to “little green men”. As if there are dozens of died fighters in Syria. Moreover, this list of the “negative deeds”, which has appeared lately, can be easily continued.
Nevertheless, let’s understand what such Russian command of special operation forces are, we will recall its history, and also we will analyse the battle experience got in the Crimea and Syria.
The training center of special operation experts
If we look at the numerous publications devoted to CSOF, then a merit of its creation is attributed personally to the ex-minister Anatoly Serdyukov and to the former chief of the General Staff, the general of the Army Nikolay Makarov. After the war in Georgia in August, 2008 they could break “short-sighted” military and create unique structure.
 Actually these statements are far off the mark. The first center of special operations in the Russian army has been created still in the late nineties. The initiator of creation of the center was the chief of the General Staff, the general of the Army Anatoly Kvashnin. The new structure submitted to the management of Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence. The official name of military unit was “The training center of specialists”. Such name as if underlined the special status of the center: training of unique experts.
 That moment it was already clear that the second conflict in Chechnya can be resumed any day. Therefore, they selected the best officers of brigades of the special purpose in the center. Reportedly, the main “donors” for new military unit were 16 and 22 officers of brigades of the special purpose. In addition, in the summer 1999, the first divisions of the Center have been stopped at border of Chechnya.
What problems were solved by fighters of the Center before official input of the Russian troops, so far remains the protected information. However, it is known that in the fall, 1999 two fighters were taken captive, senior lieutenants Alexey Galkin and Vladimir Pakhomov. The military personnel was exposed to long tortures. Several months later, Galkin and Pakhomov with multiple damages and injuries could neutralize the fighters conveying them and run off, having taken weapon. In several days, the runaways got to federal forces.
Later Alexey Galkin became the Hero of Russian Federation. It is remarkable that the fact of captivity isn’t mentioned in the official formulation of the decree of the President. It is specified that the reconnaissance force under Galkin’s command has taken important documents of the fighters proving their communication with the international terrorist groups.
In the first months of the Second Chechen war, the fighters have got the informal nickname in federal group - “sunflowers”.
There are two versions of this nickname. The center is located in Solnechnogorsk situated near Moscow, near the suburban railway station “Podsolnechnaya” (Sunflower). That’s why they are called “sunflowers”.
But veterans of the center tell that in one of the first Chechen trips, the interservice team of the Center has been dressed in panama hats. According to one version, they were hats from SPN-2 set. On another version, the fighters have bought hats for own money, after watching the Hollywood action film. For similarity of the hat to the solar flower, fighters of the Center were called “sunflowers”.
Later, in the middle of the 2000th, the Center has received the name “Senezh”. But prior to reform of “new image”, the sunflower has been applied on an official chevron of the Center. After it was replaced by the stylized letter “C”.
In Chechnya, the fighters of the Center searched and occupied enemy bases, liquidated especially important targets and carried out other less important tasks. The “sunflowers” interacted with fighters of the “Alpha” and “Pennant” group of the Center of a special purpose of FSB of Russia, and also special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Internal troops.
The 2000th
Shortly, besides paratroopers and members of special groups, they began to select to “Senezh” officers and ensigns of infantrymen, antiaircraft gunners, operators and even military personnel from units and division of chemical and biological protection and radio-electronic fight. Several times a year, the “buyers” of the Center visited military units and selected the best fighters. After that, they were sent to Solnechnogorsk, where difficult selection tests were carried out.
Four directions of special operations have been developed in the Center. Fighters of airborne worked jumps with parachutes, including high-delayed jump, when paratroopers develop parachutes in several hundred meters from the earth. “Sunflowers”-parachutists have mastered other option of a high-delayed jump. The fighter opens a canopy right after he has left the plane. Thanks to such way of landing, the member of special group can fly by several tens of kilometers, and at the same time, he remains the unnoticed hostile.
 “Sunflowers” jump day and night, with devices of night vision and without them in bad weather, strong wind and a rain.
The assault direction fulfilled takeover and destruction, both strategic and important objects of the hostile and usual buildings, vehicles and technogenic constructions. In addition, “sunflowers”-stormtroopers are trained to release of hostages.
Fighters of the mountain direction explore and destroy the hostile highly in mountains - on snow passes and slopes, at peaks of mountains and in gorges.
Fighters of the sea direction is responsible for fighting in water and under water. As a part of the direction, they are not only combat swimmers trained in exploring the coast, undermine the ships and commit diversions in ports, but are also special boat subdivisions. “Boat subdivisions” make diversionary raids in coastal waters, rivers and lakes, throw reconnaissance groups in the back of the enemy.
In the middle of the 2000th, there appeared the fifth direction in the Center. Its fighters are responsible for protection of the high-ranking military: the chief of the General Staff, deputy ministers of defense and others high-ranking officials in the combat zone.
The material and technical resources of the Center extended actively. There were new training objects, mountain “sunflowers” began to be trained constantly in the specialized mountain center in the settlement Terskom in vicinity of the Mt. Elbrus.
The system of fighting application of divisions of special operations forces also appeared little by little. Depending on a task, the Center creates interservice teams, where groups of each direction are allocated. For example, if it is necessary to work in mountains, then more mountain “sunflowers” are necessary, but it is less than paratroopers and seamen.
According to some information, fighters of “Senezha”, besides counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya, took active part in fight against piracy in Gulf of Aden, in doctrines in the CIS countries, and also in the conflict in Georgia in August, 2008.
 “New image”
Expanding possibilities of “Senezha”, the command of the Center and the management of Main Intelligence Directorate have met certain difficulties. In particular, the chief of GRU had no resources for operational deployment of groups of the Center in case of the emergency need. It is necessary to contact the chief of the General Staff with request for allocation of planes or helicopters. And the Chief of Defense (CHOD) will give the instruction to the command of the Air Force. Therefore, it was required to develop new system of combat management.
At this particular time, Anatoly Serdyukov held the post of the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation. It is known that in Russian Defense Ministry to Serdyukov’s activities extremely are negatively charged. However, Special Operation Forces consider that the ex-minister made quite a lot for their formation and development.
Resubordination of “Senezh” personally to the chief of the General Staff was the first decision of Anatoly Serdyukov. It allowed to quickly resolving all organizational issues. From this moment, “Senezh” changed the name from “Center of training of the specialists” to “Center of special operations of the Ministry of Defence”.
Serdyukov visited Solnechnogorsk several times and communicated with “sunflowers”, asked them about their needs. For the benefit of the Center, they reserved the squadron of the military transport planes Il-76, which permanently was based in Tver. The helicopter squadron from composition of the 344 Center of fighting application of Army aircraft worked also in interests of “Senezh”.
 One of controversial issues whether reduction of staff declared by the ex-Minister of Defence concerned “Senezha”. If to check databases of courts’ decisions, then it is possible to find numerous claims from the former military personnel of Center to command for illegal dismissal from military service and reduction of positions. So despite a good attitude of Serdyukov to “Senezh”, the center got under the general wave of reduction. Though, there is a judgement that such “mopping-up” had only the positive consequences. The Center of the special purposes succeeded to carry out certification repeatedly and to select the best officers.
“Under the fence”
Further development of the Russian special operation forces is connected with extraordinary officers - the former head of the Center of special purposes of FSB, the lieutenant general Alexander Miroshnichenko. Miroshnichenko has been appointed to a post of the Deputy Minister of Defense and was engaged reforming of units and divisions of  special purpose of Russian Defense Ministry.
Former head of Center of FSB and ex-commanders of the “Alpha” group has proposed to expand possibilities of the Russian special operation forces, having created the second Center. The settlement situated near Moscow, Cubinka. It became the place of its dislocation. In combat training, the new military unit had to be guided first of all by experience of “Alpha”. According to some information, officers of “Alpha”, who have resigned from FSB to the Ministry of Defence, took active part in formation of the new Center.
The formation of the Center has been completed in 2013, after Anatoly Serdyukov’s resignation. Under the name “Center of a Special Purposes of Ministry of Defence”, it became the part of created Command of Special Operation Forces. The major general Alexey Dyumin, who later has become the governor of Tula region, headed CSOF.
The Center in Cubinka has got the informal nickname “under the fence”. It’s not clear with what such name not is connected.
The exact organizational and regular structure of the new Center is unknown. Reportedly, it is close to “Senezh”, but to the certain differences. Most likely fighters of the Center Russian Federation are more focused on conducting actions in city conditions including assault.
The Olympic Games and Crimea
The first operation of two Centers was a safety of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi at the beginning of 2014. There is no exact information on activity of fighters of CSOF yet. Reportedly, they not only were on duty directly on Olympic objects, but also protected them from mountains.
Right after the end of the Sochi Olympic Games, the fighters of CSOF became the major element of the Russian operation in the Crimea. Thanks to the video report of the operation placed on a video hosting YouTube about the activity of special operation forces is known quite a lot.
At the first stage, the fighters of CSOF have occupied the building of the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. They haven’t allowed its takeover by the Ukrainian nationalists. Later it has provided normal functioning of the Parliament.
Later the military personnel of both Centers has performed some more operations: neutralized several arsenals, neutralized objects of air defense. It is remarkable that the Ukrainian media showed the plot, where the fighters of the crew of air defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine couldn’t come to the fighting vehicles of the S-300 complexes. Snipers of CSOF made precautionary shots, without allowing the Ukrainian military even closely to approach anti-aircraft missile systems. Any fighter of air defense hasn’t suffered and hasn’t even been wounded, but exact fire has strongly demoralized the Ukrainians.
The release of airport Belbek and the occupation of the military camp of the Ukrainian battalion of marines and disarmament of its staff became the most difficult operations.       
In spite of the fact that the military personnel of air brigade of the Air Force of Ukraine in Belbek weren’t armed, but they behaved very aggressively and obviously created the media picture.
In Belbek raid, the military personnel of both Centers was involved. Fighters have blocked the airport, and then under cover of ballistic boards, have carried out the mopping-up of rooms and have blocked the Ukrainian military. The last though behaved prior to storm very aggressively, but having been the clamped groups of fighters of CSOF, have quickly calmed down and have dispersed.
The storm of battalion of marines promised to become the real check. Marines barricaded, they were armed and promised to resist to the last. The arrived fighters of CSOF have blocked all constructions, used light sound, and smoke grenades; they have forced the Ukrainian military to give up. However, as well as pilots in Belbek, marines have given up very quickly.
The Russian operation in Syria became sidereal hour of the Command of special operation forces. The main task of fighters was the air pointing of attack aircraft of Aerospace forces of Russia. Divisions of CSOF not only directly operate on the front line, but also in the background of groups of fighters, the Islamic State banned in Russia.
The main working tool of fighters of special operations is a terminal of the complex of reconnaissance of command and control and communication (KRUS) “Strelets” (“Musketeer”). The target is detected, identified then its coordinates are transferred to warplanes.
It is remarkable that officially Russian military-political government repeatedly declared actions of fighters of special operation forces as air gunlayers.
One more task of divisions of CSOF is a covering fire of divisions of the Syrian army. In the first turn, it is work of snipers of special operations. They shoot out commanders of the hostile, snipers, positions of anti-tank missiles, machine guns, recoilless guns and grenade launchers, and also the fighters who have sat down at fortifying and buildings.
The fighters of CSOF act also effectively by means of the anti-tank missile systems “Cornet” and also by means of recoilless SPG-9. There are automatic AGS-17 and AGS-30 grenade launchers and even 82-mm mortars in the arsenal of special operation forces.
Most likely divisions of CSOF conduct also raids deeply in the back areas of the hostile, destroying base and the camp of fighters. They use armored cars “Tiger” and all available arsenal for thrusts: PTRK “Cornet”, 82-mm mortars, easel grenade launchers and large-caliber machine guns. Mobile groups of special operation forces have also easy unmanned aerial vehicles. Most likely, they are used not only for reconnaissance, but also for correction of fire of mortars and automatic grenade launchers.
Recently the overland fighting drones began to help the Russian fighters of special operation forces. In particular, the UAV “Soratnik”, which is recently presented by Kalashnikov concern.
The rescue of the staff of the front SU-24M bomber, hit by the Turkish Air Force, and the search of its flight recorders became one of unique operations of the Russian CSOF in Syria. “Polite people” have successfully coped with both tasks.
The operation in Syria wasn’t managed without loss. Officially, the Ministry of Defence recognized death of two fighters of special operation forces: Fedor Zhuravlev and Alexander Prokhorenko, who became the Hero of Russia posthumously.
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