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The Russian Special Forces University is the first and only private Russian company intended to provide professional training and development of task forces. The University was created on August 1, 2013 as the “International Training Centre for Special forces” under the patronage of the head of the Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. In August 2017, the center was renamed as the Russian Special Forces University.
The university is being developed thanks to private investments on the territory of over 450 hectares in the city of Gudermes. It encompasses a multifunctional complex of more than 95 buildings and facilities. A Tactics Town with buildings and structures characteristic of urban and rural landscape allows for the practice of combat, hostage-release operations, or any other scenarios in close-to-real conditions. Included in the complex is a rock-climbing wall and an area for practicing anti-terror operations on all kinds of transport with scaled models of the assault objects: airplane, train, bus, and other vehicles. The university’s training grounds set conditions for conducting airborne, mountain, forest, water and other types of training.
The University has one of the world’s biggest covered shooting ranges – about 35 hectares. The main building area is 55,000 m2. The created infrastructure allows for about 500 people to live and train in the center. About 1,000 people can use training facilities simultaneously. An additional mountain training ground was created in the village of Chishki for the training of climbers. Another mountain training ground is being created near the village of Nashha. It is expected that the university will reach full working capacity at the end of 2019.
The university leadership says that its main task is to transfer the anti-terrorist experience accumulated in the Chechen Republic to special units and units of various special services of Russia. The university is also open to work with foreigners. According to experts, the main partners may be the countries of the Arab world and Latin America, as well as member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Negotiations are underway with representatives of Belarus, Kazakhstan and China.
Deputy Head of the National Guard of Russia in the Chechen Republic, Daniil Martynov curates the Russian Special Forces University. He also leads the instructor team. According to him, the university has 45 instructors in various fields and has plans to increase staff.
Martynov says that the instructor team possesses unique experience in preparing and conducting special operations. All trainers are special forces officers with many having extensive combat experience. Before starting their work, instructors complete additional training under a special program developed by the university together with the Russian State University of Physical Culture and Sports in Moscow. In accordance with Russian law, officers and government employees do have the right to engage in scientific and teaching activities.
The university’s training programs cover such areas as firearms training, tactical and special, airborne, mountain, diving, security and military medical training, dog training, auto-training, engineering, IT-training, and courses for war-correspondents. The university also provides for the training of security guards of senior officials and employees of security companies, including general physical training, guarded person tactics, escorting, including automobile, medical first aid, preventive safety measures, counter sniping, hand-to-hand combat and special training. Education and training of both civilian and Russian military personnel takes place on a paid contract basis.
A separate direction of work is tactical and special training in Arctic conditions. In April 2016, a team comprised of members from the Russian National Guard Troops “Flying Squad”, who were trained at a special program developed by the University’s instructors with the support of the Russian Geographic Society, conducted tactical and special exercises in the Arctic. The group, together with instructors, landed three times at the North Pole and practiced various special training techniques in the Arctic for three weeks. For example, as part of the exercises, a group of 20 people arriving via an IL-76, carried out an 8-kilometer march with full combat gear at a temperature of 40°F. The group detected and destroyed the command post of a conditional enemy. The expedition was headed by Daniil Martynov.
Another widely-covered tactical-training exercise in the Arctic took place in April 2018. The “Arctic” group included members of the instructor group of the Russian University of Special Forces, the Flying Squad, the special rapid reaction unit of the Russian Guard in the Chechen Republic “Terek”, the special rapid reaction unit “Lynx” and the Special Operations Center “Vityaz”.
The first stage of the exercises was held at the nuclear icebreaker “Soviet Union” in Murmansk. The second phase took place on the Alexandra Islands – a group of five islands in the Franz Josef Land archipelago.
Apparently, training of the students of this private educational institution served as a nutritious broth for the burning exposures of the “special operations of the Russian special forces” conducting reconnaissance against key objects and critical infrastructure in Norwegia’s Svalbard -at least as portrayed in a release by Western media. Proponents of these revelations went so far as to carry out an open-source investigation on Instagram and found alleged university students taking cunning pictures at Svalbard Airport. They tried to convince the audience that a Russian task force unit had secretly crossed the border, landed in Svalbard, carried out the planned special operations, among other things made a couple photos for Instagram and then the whole group secretly flew to Russia from the local airport, magically passing through passport control on the border.
During the 6 years of its existence, the Russian Special Forces University has become the most famous and professional public training center for task forces and private military and security contractors around the world. The active and successful participation of Russia-linked private military contractors in conflicts in the Middle East and Africa has once again raised in Russia the question of the possibility of legislative permission to create private military companies within the jurisdiction of Russia. If the creation of such companies is legally permitted, the role of the Russian Special Forces University in the training and retraining of employees of such companies will increase even more.
In addition to formally declared patriotic goals, the creation of the Russian Special Forces University has a purely practical dimension. In the event of further success, the university will become a significant source of income for elite groups associated with the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and will become a factor in the further growth of the influence of the Kadyrov group in the North Caucasus region and in Russia as a whole. The university actively attracts the best specialists to the positions of instructors or highly paid consultants. The best young active service members of law enforcement agencies and task forces undergo extra training in various programs there.
It is important to note that the Russian army is a warring army. Over the past decades, Russian forces have participated in numerous anti-terrorist operations (for example in the Caucasus Region and the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking in Tajikistan) and peacekeeping operations such as with the deployment of paratroopers in Kosovo. In 2008, Russia conducted a successful peace-enforcing operation in response to the aggression of the Saakashvili regime in South Ossetia. Another successful operation was performed in Crimea in 2014. The Russian operation in Syria, which started in 2015, turned the tide of the conflict.
The only other major power which constantly and even more intensively uses its military forces is the United States. However, there is a noticeable difference between the Russian and American approaches. The US Armed Forces make a significant bet on technology and gaining a technological advantage over the enemy. The Russian side relies on training and high qualifications of its personnel – soldiers and officers. Thus, it turns out that the most trained warriors in the modern world are Russians.