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Special Operations Forces (Russia)

The Special Operations Forces of Russia, or SOF (Russian: Силы специальных операций; ССО, tr. Sily spetsial’nykh operatsii; SSO)[21][22] are strategic-level special forces under the Special Operations Forces Command (Russian: командование сил специальных операций; KCCO, tr. Komandovanie sil spetsial’nalnykh operatsii; KSSO, or KSO)[22] of the General Staff[22] of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

Special Operations Forces
Sily spetsial’nykh operatsii (SSO)
Great emblem of the Special Operations Forces.svg
Active2009; (operational from 2013 - present)
Country Russian Federation
BranchSpecial Operations Forces Command
RoleSpecial Operations
Part ofMedium emblem of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (27.01.1997-present).svg Russian Armed Forces
Garrison/HQKubinka-2, Moscow region
AnniversariesFebruary 27
EngagementsCounter-piracy operations[1](allegedly)

Russian military intervention in Ukraine

Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War

Classified (2018-present)
  • Oleg Martyanov (2009-2013)
  • Alexey Dyumin (2013-2015)
  • Alexander Matovnikov[20] (2015-2018)

The first units of what would become the Special Operations Forces were transferred from the GRU in 2009 as part of the continuing 2008 Russian military reform.[23] The Special Operations Forces Command was set up in 2012 and announced in March 2013 by the Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.[24][25] According to Gerasimov, the SOF was designed as a strategic-level asset, whose primary missions would be foreign interventions, including sabotage and anti-terrorism operations.[26][27] SOF do not belong to any branch of the Russian armed forces and are distinct from the Special Forces of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces that until 2010 were under the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and whose subsequent subordination appears to be unclear.[28][24] Russia's SOF are manned exclusively by professional personnel hired on contract, in commissioned officer positions.[24]

In February 2015, President of Russia Vladimir Putin decreed that 27 February be the Day of the SOF to mark, according to Russia's official news media (albeit not acknowledged formally), the establishment of Russian control over the building of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Simferopol, Ukraine, in February 2014.[29][23][24]

Mission and methodsEdit

The Forces are a highly mobile, well-trained and equipped, constant combat readiness special operations force of the Russian Ministry of Defense, designed to perform specific tasks in order to protect the interests of Russian Federation (with application of military force, by necessity), both within the country and abroad, in peacetime and in wartime.

The Russian Ministry of Defense defines the term "special operation" as "methods and ways of fighting not characteristic of conventional forces: reconnaissance and sabotage, subversion and sedition, counter-terrorism, counter-sabotage, counterintelligence, guerrilla, counter-guerrilla and other activities".[30][31]

SOF have been primarily involved in Syria, conducting target acquisition for Russian Air Force combat planes conducting airstrikes and Russian Navy sea-launched cruise missile strikes, acting as military advisors training Syrian government troops, seek and destroying critical enemy objects,[32][33][34][35]disruption behind enemy lines through ambushes, high value targeted assassinations and retaliation strikes against select groups of fighters.


In 2009, as a part of the comprehensive reform of the Russian Federation's Armed Forces, Special Operations Directorate, subordinate directly to the Chief of the General Staff, was created on the basis of the GRU's special missions unit Senezh in the Moscow region.[23] The unit saw extensive action in the Caucasus region and earned the nickname "podsolnukhi" (sunflowers), a nickname given to the soldiers assigned to the unit while serving in Chechnya. It was reported that Colonel Oleg Martianov, who later became a member of the board of the Military-Industrial Commission, was one of the founders and first commander of the SOF in 2009−2013.[36][37]

In 2012, the Special Operations Directorate was reorganized as Special Operations Command, which was followed by plans to upscale the Forces manpower up to 9 special purpose brigades.[24]

On 6 March 2013 the Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov announced the beginning of the Special Operations Forces creation. While speaking to foreign military attaches in Moscow, he said: "After reviewing the practice of the formation, training and the use of special operations forces in the leading countries of the world, Russia's Defense Ministry has also begun to create them... A corresponding command was created, which is engaged in planning work and implements plan of training of the Armed Forces... A set of documents has already been elaborated to determine the direction of development, methods of training and application of these forces".[25][38]

In March 2013, according to Russian media reports, creation of the Special Operations Center of the Ministry of Defense of Russia for around 500 professional soldiers began in the suburban village of Kubinka-2. Formation of the Center was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013. The center was directly subordinated to the Special Operations Forces Command of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

At the end of April 2013, units of Special Operations Forces conducted a special tactics exercise at Elbrus mountains at the height of 4,5 kilometers. The exercise was dedicated to practice transportation of one of the SSO units by military transport aviation and army aviation, as well as air insertion of personnel and cargo into target area.[39][40]

In May 2013, the General Staff said that SOF would be tasked with security of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and that SOF now comprised air and naval components.[41]

On 11 December 2017, SOF units provided security for the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Khmeimim Air Base by covering the most dangerous directions from sea, air and land. Vladimir Putin later personally thanked all the military personnel involved for their exemplary performance of the task.[42]


  • Special Purpose Center "Senezh"
  • Special Purpose Center "Kubinka-2"
  • 561st Naval Rescue Center
  • 344th Army Aviation Combat Center[43][44]

While official numbers are classified, between Senezh and Kubinka-2 there are between 2,000 and 2,500 total personnel. Additionally, the Command also has supporting elements, that provide Combat Support and Combat Service Support functions. Furthermore, the Command has a dedicated special aviation brigade that directly controls combat aviation assets at Torzhok, and a squadron of Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft at the Migalovo airfield near Tver.[44]


The training of the officer recruit special operators is carried out in the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School – RVVDKU (department of special and military intelligence and the department of the use of special forces) and the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School – NVVKU (department of special intelligence and the chair of the special reconnaissance and airborne training). At Senezh, potential operators learn skydiving, mountaineering, swimming and scuba diving, and storming buildings and homes, while Kubinka-2 focuses on maritime operations and recon and controls several naval special operations detachments. There is also a cold weather/mountaineering training centre at Mount Elbrus named "Terskol," in Kabardino-Balkaria. Additionally, depending on the individual tasks the soldiers are being prepared for, the training is more in-depth.[44]

Known operationsEdit

  • In 2014, unidentified men with military weapons began blockading Ukrainian bases in Crimea, and on February 27, around 50 men seized the Crimean parliament. While claiming to be a local militia, this well-armed and highly professional unit turned out to be the first deployment of Russia's special operators.[45][46][47][48] In another incident on March 18, the undercover operatives stormed and captured the military base in Simferopol. According to Russian media reports, the commander of SOF then was Alexey Dyumin, who personally conducted all operations in Crimea.[49][50]
  • From late November to early December 2016 for a period of ten days, during the final offensive in Aleppo, SOF were responsible for very specific covert targeted assassinations against selected rebel leaders of various rebel factions which killed at least 6 senior and the most high ranking in the rebel leadership.[58]
  • In 2017, a commander of a special missions detachment was awarded a Gold Star and named a Hero of the Russian Federation after his 16-man unit managed to successfully repulse multiple attacks conducted by an estimated 300 jihadists without loss back in November 2016, after being surrounded and abandoned by their Syrian allies. Three other operators from the same unit were also awarded honors.[59]
  • On 16 August 2017, a 4-5 man SOF unit was ambushed by 40 Daesh terrorists in the village of Akerbat and being abandoned by Syrian soldiers. After all the other members of his unit were injured, including the commander and the second officer, Lance corporal Denis Portnyagin took upon the whole job himself and killed 14 terrorists in the process and was even ready to blow his grenades to prevent their capture. He was awarded the honorary title of Hero of the Russian Federation for this feat.[60]
  • On 20 September 2017, the Russian General Staff said jihadist militants tried to capture a 29-man unit of the Russian military police two days before, whom were monitoring the ceasefire in the Idlib de-escalation zone. The trapped unit fought for several hours but were eventually rescued in a special operation by a joint task force which included the Syrian Air Force, Russian Air Force and the SOF. Three SOF operatives were injured, but suffered no fatalities. An estimated 850 jihadists were reportedly killed in the offensive.[61][62]
  • On 27 September 2017, Russian Defense Ministry's spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov stated that 5 HTS commanders and 32 militants were killed in a special operation executed by the SOF in coordination with the Russian Air Force which delivered a surgical missile strike on the location of the meeting attended by the HTS field commanders south of Idlib. The commanders were believed to be behind an attack on the group of Russian military police back on September 18.[63][64] A similar operation was carried out on October 3 in Deir ez-Zor which killed 12 HTS commanders, HTS security service chief Ahmad al-Ghizai and about 50 militants.[65]
  • On 12 January 2018, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the group of militants responsible for a massive mortar attack targeting the Russian Hmeymim base in Syria on 31 December 2017 which killed two Russian soldiers were eliminated in the course of a special operation. SOF operatives tracked the fighters to their base camp near the border of Idlib and were "destroyed by a Krasnopol guided missile" as they were leaving the base according to the ministry. No mentions were made of which group the militants were affiliated to.[66][67]
  • On 25 March 2019, the Russian Defense Ministry said that a group of about 30 terrorists were eliminated in a joint special operation by the SOF and the Russian Air Force after they were tracked down. The operation was conducted in response to the death of 3 Russian servicemen as a result of a terrorist attack in late February. The location and the affiliation of the terrorists were undisclosed.[69][70]


As of February 2019, according to the Russian Defence Ministry at least ten deaths among SOF personnel in Syria have been confirmed.[76] One member whose status is presumed to have been killed in action still remains unclear as of 2019.[77]

  • Fedor Vladimirovich Zhuravlev[78]
  • Maxim Alexandrovich Sorochenko[79]
  • Ivan Cheremisin[80]
  • Alexander Prokhorenko[81][82]
  • Oleg Igorevich Arkhireev[83]
  • Sergey Alexandrovich Pechalnov[84]
  • Alexey Nikolaevich Goynyak[85][86]
  • Igor Evgenievich Melyantsev[87][88]
  • Alexander Viktorovich Popov[89]
  • Maxim Pletnev[90][91]
  • Mark Neymark[92] - status unclear




  • Arcteryx LEAF kit
  • Special Operations Forces kit for extremely hot climate
  • Propper Multicam BDU
  • Tactical Performance ATACS FG Tactical Field Jacket / Tactical Combat Pants
  • Tactical Performance ATACS FG Battle Strike Uniform Coat / Trousers
  • Tactical Performance Multicam Tactical Field Jacket / Tactical Combat Pants
  • Tactical Performance Multicam Battle Strike Uniform Coat / Trousers
  • Tactical Performance Multicam Tactical Combat Shirt
  • Phantom special thermal underwear[94]
  • Ratnik VKBO EMR camouflage combat uniforms
  • Arctic raid suit "Nanuk," other special equipment for low temperatures[95]


  • 6B7-1M
  • «Voin-Kiver RSP»
  • LSHZ 1+
  • 6B47
  • 5,45 Design Spartan 1
  • 5,45 Design Spartan 2
  • 5,45 Design Spartan 3


  • 6Sh112 LBV
  • 6Sh117 LBV
  • 6B43 armor vest
  • 6B45
  • 6B46
  • «Redut-M» armour vest
  • STICH PROFI® Loading system plate carrier
  • STICH PROFI® Lightweight plate carrier
  • FORT Defender 2
  • 5.11 Tactec Plate Carrier
  • ARS ARMA Tactec Plate Carrier
  • Raidgear&MBC "Phantom" universal Plate Carrier
  • Raidgear&MBC MBSVest Type 2 and 3 Molle Minus universal bodyarmor
  • Various Crye Precision, Survival corps, SSO/SPSON, Gear Craft, Wartech, FORT, ANA tactical, ARSARMA, Armocom plate carriers


  • FORT «Fortres K14» protective suit
  • FORT «Raid-L» protective suit
  • PMK gas mask
  • GKN-7 diving suit
  • «Aqualung Amphora» rebreather
  • «Veer-6» ballistic shield
  • PT-2 thermal monocular
  • Peltor Com Tac XP headset
  • NRS-2 special scout knife
  • ZALA UAVs[96]
  • Strelets reconnaissance, control and communications system[97]
  • «Arbalet» parachute system

Transport VehiclesEdit

Ground vehiclesEdit



  • BK-16 and BK-10[98]
  • RBS BlackShadow DPVs (Diver Propulsion Vehicles)[99]

Notable membersEdit


See alsoEdit


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