Special Operations Force (Spetsnaz)

Federal Security Service (FSB): Spetsnaz 
Home NationRussian Federation (formally USSR)
Date Founded1995, its predecessor was the soviet KGB
Key StatisticsSize: The Spetsnaz units under the command of Russia’s principal security and intelligence agency are split into five operative divisions: Directorate A, Directorate V, Directorate S, Directorate K and Directorate T. In total there are an estimated 4,000 operators across these five divisions. 

Funding: Unknown. 

Diversity: There is no information available indicating are women involved in the FSB’s spetsnaz forces; however, there is evidence that a limited number of women serve in the broader Russian special forces. 

Directorate K is a unit which is specifically based and made of soldiers from the Caucases and has a large Muslim minority. 
Specialism: Directorate A (Alpha Group) specialises in counter-terrorism, specifically assault operations and hostage rescues, they are trained for mountain, airborne and under-water operations. 

Directorate V (Vympel) specialises in counter-terrorism and counter sabotage specifically in the defence of strategic installations in Russia such as factories and transport centers. 

Directorate S (Smerch) specialises in counter-crime and smuggling operations. 
There is no information for the specialism of Directorate K/ T outside of counter-terrorism. 

Where they are based:
Directorate A – Moscow 
Directorate V – Moscow 
Directorate S – Moscow 
Directorate K – Northern Caucasus 
Directorate T – Crimea  

Operating location(s): All Directorates are used extensively in the Northern Caucases and Chechnya specifically but are available to respond to domestic terror threats across Russia, Directorate V is often the first point of call to respond to domestic issues due to the dispersal of its forces across Russia in its task to defend installations around the country.

It is speculated that both Alpha and Vympel are authorised to act under direct control of top Russian leadership for covert operations abroad including targeted assassinations. 
Noteworthy Operations1979 Operation-Storm-333: An Assassination of General-Secretary Hafizullah Amin in Kabul, marking the start of the Soviet-Afghan war.  

1983 Aeroflot flight 6833: An Attempted hijacking of a passenger plane by Georgian intellectuals attempting to flee the Soviet union. The hijacking was thwarted by Alpha group after the pilot landed and the team stored the plane resulting in eight dead in the subsequent shoot-out. 

1994-2017 Counter-terrorism in Chechnya/Caucuses: All directorates but specifically Alpha Group have been extensively involved in counter-insurgency operations during both Chechnyan wars and the insurgency in the Northern Caucuses. They provided security for high ranking officials in the area and conducted multiple sabotage and hostage rescue operations. 
Any Scandals2004 Beslan School Siege: Part of the second Chechnyan war, which saw Chechnyan separatist forces capture a school and take over 1100 hostages including 777 children. After no demands were met and the agitation of the capteurs increased both Alpha and Vympel teams were tasked to raid the building. This led to what is often referred to as the ‘Beslan School Massacre’ as during the subsequent firefight 333 people died (including 186 children), it is hailed as the deadliest school shooting in history. The botched rescue attempt received widespread criticism in Russia, that the security forces were too heavy handed and did not allow peaceful negotiation to take place effectively. The initial shooting started due to miscommunication and confusion with some ordering ‘ceasefire’ and others ordering to storm the building. A core criticism often brought up is the excessive use of force, in which the Russian security services used multiple T-72 tanks, an Mi-24 attack helicopter, RPGs, Heavy machine guns and thermobaric weapons/ flamethrowers. The ‘Mothers of Beslan’ group accused the security forces of incompetence and after an internal investigation it was concluded the security forces did nothing wrong. Further complaints ensued by the EU and other bodies within Russia but a policy of censorship misinformation stifled any chance of a transparent review. The siege has been used as a justification for tighter security laws, a consolidation of power in the Kremlin and widespread racial hatred of Chechnyans across Russia.

2002 Moscow theatre hostage crisis: Also part of the Second Chechnyan war this saw a group of Islamist Chechnyan insurgents take 850 hostages. The security response was a complete disaster as they pumped the building full of an undisclosed chemical agent before beginning their assault leading to the deaths of all 40 insurgents and 130 hostages. The event is shrouded in misinformation and many conspiracies point directly to Russian security services involvement in orchestrating the crisis. Many independent investigations occured after the event but a string of ‘accidents’ often befell their belligerents. A blanket of mysteries covers the event and no concrete answers about FSB involvement have ever been found.

Ukraine: Both Alpha and Vympel groups are rumoured to have been involved in the Russian support for seperatist groups in the Donbas region of Ukraine, often called the ‘little green men’ these operators were Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms that led, trained and supported Russian seperatist groups. Russia has consistently denied their existence. Alpha and Vympel are confirmed to have been involved in the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and are likely to be involved in the current 2022 invasion of Ukraine of which human rights violations and war crimes have become a running theme. 
Noteworthy Distinctions/ extra informationMany ex-Soviet states have their own versions of FSB spetsnaz groups left after the collapse of the Soviet Union, E.G: Ukraine, Belarus, Tajikistan.