‘Spetsnaz of the USSR’ – the new Russian irregulars in Syria now fighting for Assad


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The Syrian military does not have enough personnel to simultaneously launch major attacks, suppress militants, and garrison cities under its control, and so Moscow has dispatched to Syria irregular forces which it calls “the Spetznaz of the USSR” that consist not of professional soldiers but of irregulars from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

According to the RusVesna (Russian Spring) portal, which was launched at the time of the Crimean Anschluss, this force, which it labels “a counter-guerrilla special detachment from the countries of the former USSR,” calls itself TURAN, has its own uniforms and numbers between 800 and 1200 fighters.

Most of the participants come from Central Asia and the South Caucasus, but some come from the North Caucasus as well, the portal says. They are armed with weapons from the former Soviet Union as well as the West, and they appear to “belong to the now fashionable innovation of contemporary war – private military companies.”

Putin helping Assad in Syria political cartoonIts commanders say, RusVesna reports, that they will soon be sending up to 400 of their number along the road connecting Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor in support of government forces.

And the portal adds that “the appearance of such departments on the side of government forces should become a signal for the militants that against them are fighting representatives of a good half of the countries of the former USSR which in turn means the following: the days of their bandit activities on the Syrian land are numbered.”

The participation of as many as 10,000 militants from Russia and the other post-Soviet states has attracted enormous attention as has the Russian military presence not only in the form of regular units but also Chechen police detachments that Ramzan Kadyrov has loudly promised he has sent.

But this new Russian-organized “special forces” group is ominous for three reasons:

  • First, such nominally irregular fighters because their activities can be denied not only by Damascus but by Moscow as well are likely to engage in even more vicious actions than the regular units of both.
  • Second, their appearance may help Bashar Assad in the short term but they almost certainly guarantee that Russian involvement in his regime will be far more long-lasting than many have thought, with units of this “Spetznaz of the USSR” integrating themselves into the Syrian control system again in deniable ways.
  • And third, and perhaps most worrisome of all, such units may represent a model for future Russian behavior in other hotspots, where most attention will focus on militants fighting for Islamist causes rather than on irregulars fighting for dictatorial regimes which are now Moscow’s only allies.



Edited by: A. N.

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  1. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

    Ever notice that moscow always enlists non-ruSSians to fight their battles? In WWII, it was Ukrainians, and now they continue to enlist Chechens, Mongols, etc for their cannon fodder. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/62e84acf172b253761303378a6e9a410bdb2add97776160c5c49fbbea4bece85.jpg

    1. Avatar Richard Hegner says:

      There are russian soldiers in Ukraine. Vice news has a great report on it. Also there are large numbers of russian advisors and even generals and medical personel in Syria. Most media also reported on spetsnaz in intense fighting against ISIS around Palmyra. So I cant understand your comment? It doesnt make sense to me

      1. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

        May 9th Moscow gives their annual drunkfest called their ‘Victory’ parade under the illusion the ruSSians gave the ultimate sacrifice in WWII, when in fact, they assisted in initiating the conflict and then sacrificed the lives of millions of Ukrainians defending the former willing collaborator of Nazi Germany. Ukrainian loss of life nearly equals Russia/Poland COMBINED. No doubt their are Russian soldiers in Ukraine, Syria, Chechnya, etc., but when the fighting increases, they send in their non-Russian cannon fodder. And, as history shows the last 100 years, the cancer of humanity.

      2. Avatar MichaelA says:

        you are right about russian soldiers in ukraine and about russian advisors and high ranking officers in syria
        I think dirk is referring to the fact that putin relies a lot on contract soldiers and mercenaries
        he recruits many of these in the central asian nations
        also a lot of russian soldiers used for the dirty jobs are not ethnic russians

  2. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    Putin’s Spezial Nazis – licensed to murder.

    1. Avatar Alex George says:

      True – the nature of these troops shows that the Kremlin is still using terror as a weapon. Russia remains the greatest exporter of terrorism.

      1. Avatar RedSquareMaidan says:

        It also shows more mercs afraid to wear ruSSian insignias.

      1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

        It’s only ONE Gruz 200 return from Syria, but by no means the only one. As with the Donbas, Pedo Putolini is desperately trying to hide the true extent of Dwarfstan’s casualties. I suppose there was no way they could hide this particular casualty, perhaps because of his rank- there are far fewer majors than privates.

        1. Avatar Alex George says:

          True. And a major will likely be from the upper classes, so his family and friends will ask questions if they don’t hear from him

  3. Avatar Alex George says:

    The article is hard to follow – it jumps from “800-1200” militants, to “10,000”.

    Whatever, this comes as no surprise – many of us predicted that Russia would inevitably be drawn into a Syrian quagmire, and behold it is happening. Putin can rely entirely on central Asian soldiers if he wishes – but he will then lose Russian control of the fighting. Or, he can use Russians as he is doing now, and take a steady stream of casualties.

    Just as the USSR did in Afghanistan…

    1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

      And just how reliable will those largely Sunni Muslim Central Asians be in supporting Shias (Iranians, Hezbollah thugs) and Alawites (Assad and Co) against fellow Sunnis????

  4. Avatar Duke Nukem says:

    The model is not new. They did this in Donbas.

  5. Avatar Richard Hegner says:

    Putin is allied with dictators. But thats better than sharia law and jihadist influence all across Syria which would create more refugee streams. The usa is allied with the saudis…thats far worse

    1. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

      Hmmmm….last time I checked, the supporter and arms supplier of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, Taliban, and ISIS originates from the kremlin. Why not go to the root of the problem?