Special Rapid Response Unit
SOBR (Spetsial'nye Otryady Bystrogo Reagirovaniya)

Russia's president signed a decree April 05, 2016 to create a national guard tasked with fighting terrorism and organized crime. The new federal agency will be led by Vladimir Putin's former chief bodyguard, Viktor Zolotov. Formed out of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the National Guard, according to the president, will continue to work "in close cooperation" with the ministry.

Special Rapid Response Unit or SOBR (Russian = Spetsial'nye Otryady Bystrogo Reagirovaniya), SOBR units were composed of senior-ranking police officers, better trained than the members of OMON (which is a cross between riot police and paramilitary police), and tasked with SWAT type special operations under the jurisdiction of MVD. They also fought during the wars in Chechnya.

The Spetsial'nyye Otryady Bystrogo Reagirovaniya, an elite Russian rapid reaction anti-crime unit, was ordered disbanded by the Russian Interior Ministry back in 2002, but was instead renamed OMSN (Otrjad Milizii Spetsialnogo Naznachenija), and is now trained to combat terrorism as well as organized crime. Its members, as well as many of those who know of it, still refer to it as SOBR. Both regular internal troops and special units (special rapid reaction units – SOBR) – and militia units of special detachment (OMON) are actively used in domestic operations other than war. These formations are better prepared to conduct specific "grey area" security tasks than regular armed forces.

While most Western states lack forces other than the military to perform "grey area" security tasks, for many countries that have not yet developed solid democratic traditions or face constant internal disturbances, most of these duties are very similar to "internal security" tasks. So are they for the Russian Federation, where the number of internal troops of the Ministry of Interior (up to 300,000 gendarmerie-type soldier-police) may soon be almost comparable to the country’s land armed forces. Internal troops are composed of formations that are in many respects similar to light infantry, and of special detachment units (spetsnaz), with the difference that they are trained to deal as much with civilians as with enemy troops. Internal troops are armed with light arms, light and heavy mortars, and armored troop carriers. However, unlike the armed forces, they do not use heavy arms (artillery, tanks, and rocket-launchers) and ammunition, or assault aircraft, combat helicopters, and rocket-launchers in public security operations.

According to the law, internal troops’ tasks include, among others sealing off areas declared under the state of emergency and zones of armed conflicts; prevention of hostilities and separation of the conflicting parties; confiscation of weapons from the population; disarmament of illegal armed groups or, in case of armed resistance, their elimination (in cooperation with other MVD structures).

In combat-type missions on Russian territory (in conflict zones or at early stages of post-conflict stabilization) there is no alternative to the use of the armed forces, as demonstrated by the situation in and around Chechnya. While it was the internal troops and other MVD units who were the first to stand against the August 1999 invasion of armed Chechen groups into neighbouring Dagestan, they had to be replaced with regular armed forces as soon as that was possible. At the military stage of the second campaign in Chechnya, internal troops played support functions (rear and flank cover, cordon-off operations, etc.). Normally, after the army units neutralized the rebels’ artillery in a certain area, internal troops and MVD special units arrived to conduct cordon-off (mopping-up) actions, population screening (passport regime control), and other operations.

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Page last modified: 06-04-2016 20:10:37 ZULU