The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has given experts and anyone else interested the chance to see more of Russia's special forces in operation and with it, their specific idiosyncrasies, daily Postimees reports.
Despite the fearsome reputation the group or groups rather loosely-defined as Spetsnaz acquired internationally on the back of a run of blockbuster Western movies in the 1980s and 1990s, and in actuality the Afghanistan War, which the Soviet Union lost, success does not seem to have materialized in Ukraine either.
Spetsnaz and other elite forces such as the VDV have been pressed into service in situations different from those their training would have focused on.
The Postimees piece, by security expert Erkki Koort, reports that since the Russians counted on quick success when attacking Ukraine in February 2022, and planned to send troops via the Hostomel Airport to the capital, Kyiv, via the ensuing air bridge, this meant plenty of special forces resources were devoted toward that unsuccessful end.
Several types of attacks took place at the same time involving conventional military action in the South and East of Ukraine, though while an attempt to overthrow the Ukrainian government and take out Volodomyr Zelenskyy was staged in Kyiv, due to poor planning and the lack of other combat-ready troops, special forces were used very much more as regular infantry – and the attempt failed.
Koorts says this alternative use has the effect of wearing the personnel down, though nonetheless the Russian command, hoping for an imminent breakthrough, pressed hard despite this loss of fighting capability.
This meant that airborne troops from Pskov, Ulan-Ude, and other airborne divisions were used up, as were marines from the Black Sea, Baltic Sea region and other fleets and, to crown it all, special forces trained for submarine operations also appeared on the battlefield - but in an infantry role.
Ukraine, too, has its own special forces units sometimes referred to as Spetsnaz (pictured).
Editor's note: According to expert on the Russian military Mark Galeotti, directly conflating Spetsnaz with Western special forces outfits such as Britain's SAS and SBS is misleading in that the specialness of the latter tends to relate to the operatives themselves, whereas in Russia it pertains more to the special role assigned to the troops – which as suggested above can be highly flexible, and also reflects the Russian Civil War, Spanish Civil War and World War Two partisan roots of the Spetsnaz.
Editor: Andrew Whyte