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How Russian spetsnaz determines the course of the Syrian war
Material posted: Publication date: 30-03-2016
Composed of troops recently recaptured from the "Islamic state" Palmyra, were part of the Syrian and Iranian army and the militias of Hezbollah. And on Monday, the Russian authorities said that the victory was achieved thanks to a further subdivision of the Russian elite special forces, known as spetsnaz.

That the Russian troops taking part in ground operations in the Syrian war, known without it. Since arriving in Syria in September the Russians to protect the main sea port in Tartus, and the perimeter of the airport in Latakia deployed Marines. However, the fact that at the front there are Russian units in addition to small amounts of artillery and tank units — had been under a veil of secrecy.

However, after the capture of Palmyra is no longer a mystery. Russian officials said Monday that Palmyra "was released with the participation of special forces and military advisers". "Islamic state" took Palmyra in may and shortly afterwards partly destroyed several of the city's historical monuments.

Russian special forces became one of the Central themes of the Russian news reports on the war in Syria, as the battle of Palmyra antiepilepsy directly fits into the rhetoric that Russia was originally used to justify intervention, says analyst-researcher at the Institute for the study of war (Institute of the Study of War) Chris Kozak (Kozak Chris).

The participation of Russian special forces in the battle of Palmyra "looks fine," said Kozak. "Although their participation in operations against opposition forces in Aleppo or Latakia in this rhetoric does not fit".

It's unclear when the Russian forces began to act and Syria, although there — even before the intervention of Russia — the Russian military has long been helping the Syrian army, instructing, advising and teaching soldiers. According to CNA analyst Michael Coffman (Michael Kofman), which specialises in military operations of the Russian army, currently in Syria there are two main divisions of the Russian special forces — "Barrier" and CSR (special operations Command).

A special unit of the foreign intelligence Service of Russia "Barrier" is a top-secret special forces designed for law enforcement response and protection in particularly dangerous areas. CSR is the equivalent of the U.S. joint special operations command and the U.S. in recent years.

"Russian special force do a lot of work on the guidance and coordination of the strikes of Russian aviation on ground targets, in addition, a lot of work in the Syrian army held by the Russian military advisers," says Kofman. However, he added that these units collect the main part of intelligence information and identification of the major objects of terrorists in order to support operations carried out by the Russian air force and the Syrian army.

Unlike most units of U.S. special forces (currently instruct Iraqi and Syrian military at the level of battalions and brigades, while in the rear), Russian special forces involved in hostilities on the side of the Syrian army, carrying out tactical support.

The presence of Russian special forces and military advisers on the front line, in turn, contributed to the fact that the Syrian government forces and allies of President Bashar al-Assad entrenched on the borders of the occupied and conquered territories in different parts of the country. According to Coffman, the Russian ground troops — despite the hype about send in the Russian air group — are the bridge that helps Syrian army to fight and show a much higher combat capability.

"Actually, it is difficult to change the situation so, having such a small number of aircraft — even though they committed a large number of sorties", — said Kofman.

Russia has played an important role in the fact that Assad was able to turn the tide after nearly five years, he was defeated by the opponents opposition organization "Dzhabhat EN-Nusra" and "Islamic state". However, in recent months to strengthen the position of young inexperienced Syrian army largely contributed to the Iranian troops, units of Hezbollah and a host of other armed groups.

But Russia's participation in land operations was not without losses. Just a few days before Russia announced that the release of Palmyra helped the Russian forces, the news Agency "Interfax", citing an unnamed Russian official source said that "heroically" killed a special forces officer who caused the fire after it was discovered by ISIS militants and is surrounded. After reports of the deaths of the commando this news spread with great speed.

As during its intervention in Ukraine, Russia is in no great hurry to report the deaths of their soldiers in Syria — it usually confirms their death a few months later after it happened. Today Russia confirmed the death in Syria of seven Russian soldiers. According to Kofman about the death of soldiers in the battle of Palmyra Russia reports more openly. The deaths, he believes, contribute to strengthening the image of Russia, according to which it participates in the Syrian war, first of all, in order to destroy the "Islamic state".

However, this openness is not limitless. The Russian authorities have not indicated the total number of deaths in the battles for the liberation of Palmyra.

Over the past few weeks, the ISIL militants claimed to have killed several Russian special forces. In one case, a news Agency associated with this extremist organization, has published the footage, which shows the rig owned by Russian soldier-the commando. The footage shows several items, including modern Russian mine production, which could belong to the special forces. ISIL also released photos, allegedly taken from the phone of this Russian soldier, which depicts a dead commando and his colleagues. It is unclear whether the equipment and photographs of the same soldier, since according to some reports colleagues commando, pictures are taken from phone, do not serve in the Russian special forces, and contractors.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff


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