Alfa and GRU were behind Chechen military police battalion in Syria

Alfa and GRU were behind Chechen military police battalion in Syria
Shooting training at the International Center for Special Forces in Gudermes. November 17, 2016 Photo: Valery Sharifulin / TASS

The military police battalion of the Ministry of Defense was prepared for the trip to Syria by instructors of a new center for training Special Forces in Gudermes – the veterans of elite units of Alfa, Vympel, and Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), Ramzan Kadyrov’s assistant Daniil Martynov told RBC. The Syrian battalion will return to Chechnya on March 17, the source said.

Help rendered by Alfa and Vympel

The instructors of the International Training Center for Special Forces (the Center) from Gudermes prepared a battalion of military police stationed in Chechnya before it was sent to Syria in December 2016. Daniil Martynov, the head of the Center, assistant to Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov on the security issues and Deputy Head of Rosgvardia local administration told RBC about it.

The instructors of the military police who went to Syria at different times served in the elite Special Forces Alfa, Vympel, and the GRU, Martynov said. The decision to send the battalion which consisted primarily of Chechen residents to Syria was taken by the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, he added.

"When the order to do so [send the battalion] was given, Ramzan Akhmatovich took it with great enthusiasm. It is an honor that it was the Chechens, [servicemen] from the Ministry of Defense who went to serve their homeland there. Both the tactics, and the combat training, was geared just towards Syria," said Martynov.

They had to serve in Syria in the conditions of almost completely destroyed urban development, Martynov highlighted, but there was no special tactic for a situation like this.

All the members of the battalion who went to Syria are contract servicemen with experience of service in flash points, Kadyrov's assistant explained. They know the basics of Arabic, but only a few people speak the language of the Syrians fluently. In just a few months that the battalion has passed in Aleppo, they have been attacked, but there were no casualties. According to Martynov, the main problem the military faced in the city was looting.

Kadyrov's assistant did not rule out that the battalion could be transferred from Aleppo at any time to Palmyra, for example. In this regard, he refused to give the exact day the soldiers would return to Russia. Meanwhile, the RBC’s source close to the Ministry of Defense said that the return was scheduled for March 17. After returning from Syria, the military will be awarded with state and republican decorations, as well as certificates and ‘encouragement’.

The Syrian army, with the support of Russian Aerospace Forces, completely drove militants from Aleppo on December 15, 2016. From the beginning of December, Russian sappers worked in the city for three months. Almost simultaneously with them, a battalion of military police of the Russian Ministry of Defense was sent to Aleppo, to provide security there.

New Special Forces Center

The Center in Gudermes, whose instructors were preparing the Chechen battalion in Syria, is supposed to open in 2018, Martynov said. The structure is private and is not subordinated to any agency, and the Chechen entrepreneurs "who have succeeded significantly in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other regions of the country" invest in its construction "at their own will", explained Martynov.

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The main building of the International Center for Special Forces in Gudermes under construction. November 17, 2016. Photo: Valery Sharifulin / TASS

The base for the Center will be a military town in area of more than 400 hectares with its runway, tactical pond, and the world's largest (4 thousand sq. m.) shooting galleries, the press service of the Center told RBC. Lectures on IT and medical training will be held in the main building; there will also be a pool for water exercises and a gym. On the premises of the Center, there is a "tactical city", an aerodynamic pipe, and a parachute complex. In total, 40 facilities will be opened for training combat against terrorists in urban conditions, both day and night. Instructors and bodyguards will be trained privately. The authorities of the Republic do not disclose the cost of the training in the Center because "the project is not yet working as a business", Martynov said.

The idea of creating the Center came from Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov about four years ago, Martynov said.

According to him, the team of instructors was formed from "the guys" with whom Martynov "served together in Alfa", the overall instructor group includes 32 people. 12 of them are senior instructors, veterans of the elite Special Forces Alfa and Vympel, involved in special and complicated operations (preventing terrorist attacks, releasing hostages). Among the 12 instructors of the Center, there are veterans of the General Directorate of the Armed Forces General Staff (the former GRU).

"From local guys, we chose the most sensible, the most competent ones, in order to train them as instructors," recalls Martynov. "You can be perfect as a fighter and bandit buster, but at the same time be a terrible teacher. My objective was to recruit people who were not perfect warriors, but could train to be perfect warriors. "

In addition to good physical fitness, the selection criteria included authority in Chechnya and membership in a certain teip (clan). Martynov did not specify which teip was "in priority". In particular, Ramzan Kadyrov belongs to the most numerous and honorable Benoy teip.

The employees of the Center earn "much more" than, for example, in Alfa, where the salary "does not correspond to the workload the guys perform", says Martynov. But he did not disclose the size of the salary. For comparison, the average salary of instructors in the units of the Special Operations ($1.500), said the RBC’s source in the security agencies.

All the instructors of the Center live in the skyscrapers of Grozny-City in the capital of the Republic; everyone has a personal car. Their wives are employed and their children are sent to good kindergartens and schools, said Kadyrov's assistant.

Vympel’s veteran Aleksandr Korovin, who became the senior instructor of the Center in 2013, told RBC that his work in Gudermes is different from the previous one: here, there is more workload and the opportunity to engage in science. "I used to focus a lot on combat training and participate directly in special operations. Here, I have the opportunity to fully immerse myself in instructor’s work, study foreign practice, test it on the staff, and make adjustments to my methods," Korovin said.

He specified that Martynov had already invited foreign specialists: interaction with them mainly took place in regards to sports – shooting and parachute training.

Image project

First of all, the Center is designed for foreigners who are hoping to receive the same qualifications as those of Russian Special Forces, believes Sergey Goncharov, president of the Alfa anti-terror unit of the veterans association.

Russian legislation does not regulate the preparation of foreign specialists by Russian private military companies, says Colonel of the Reserve, editor-in-chief of the magazine Arsenal Otechestva (Arsenal of the Fatherland) Viktor Murakhovsky. Foreigners cannot be admitted to armament and military equipment unless there is an appropriate interstate agreement on the training of military specialists, so the US and British citizens will drop out of the list of potential "clients" of the center in Gudermes, he believes.

If we are talking about training the Rosgvardia, Ministry of Defense or other law enforcement agencies, in this case, the Center and the law enforcement agencies must sign a contract, Murakhovsky said. Under this scheme, the Ministry of Defense works with the Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Aviation and Fleet (DOSAAF), he recalls. DOSAAF prepares specialists for budgetary money: for this, the Society has a material and technical base and a teaching staff well versed in the field that the Ministry of Defense wants.

The project of the Center works for the political and military image of Chechnya, said political analyst Nikolay Mironov. "This structure raises the rates in the eyes of the country's leadership, and also shows the availability of special military forces loyal to the President, on which he can rely not only in the case of military conflicts abroad," the expert said.

Thanks to the project, there will be more talk about Chechnya in the West, stated military expert Ivan Konovalov.

Foreign analogues

A week of training for a special forces unit in one of the most popular counterparts – the Royal Special Operations Training Center in Jordan (KASOTC) – costs $250.000, including food, accommodation, and ammunition.

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Military exercises at the Royal Special Operations Training Center in Jordan. Photo: Maya Alleruzzo / AP

It includes about 50 different shooting ranges and 10 training camps, where exercises with live shooting with special equipment used by special forces are practiced. The training base is adapted to train fighters both during the day and at night. In addition, the center has the opportunity to exercise various tasks using combat helicopters and other military equipment.

The Polish center for training public and private units of special purpose (European Security Academy) has been operating in Wroclaw since 1992. The complex includes a hotel, lecture halls, firing grounds and training grounds for off-road driving. A week of training for different programs can cost from $1.700 to $3.400 per person.

The training center of the Academi private military company located in Moyoke, North Carolina, USA, offers tactical and fire training. They also train hand-to-hand combat and off-road driving skills. The training center covers an area of about 28 sq. km., which includes 54 polygons, five indoors shooting ranges, dummies, simulators, a track for driving skills training, and much more. A two-day shotgun shooting training course costs $375 per person.

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