Note: This post is part of a multi-part series on the status of Russian security efforts for the Olympics. The purpose of this series is to keep SOFREP readers informed on the latest developments regarding the games as they draw closer.
In an effort to provide what has been boasted to be the “safest Olympics games ever”, Russia has deployed nearly 10,000 of its special forces to secure Sochi’s external security perimeter in the mountainous border regions of Abkhazia and Kabardino-Balkaria.
Following two recent suicide bombings in Volgograd, Russia, the closest ethnic Slavic city to the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the presence of Russia’s special forces will likely prove to be an invaluable asset in securing historically troubled areas from any nefarious actors hoping to gain access to Olympic spectators, participants, or athletes during the games.
The decision to deploy special forces to Russia’s border regions and Caucasus was made earlier last year following an announcement by the chief of the Russian General Staff to stand up the Russian equivalent to the US JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), as SOFREP previously reported.
Currently, the 10,000-member special forces group—dubbed “Operations Group Sochi”, or Sochi OG—is comprised of Spetsnaz troops under the direction of the GRU, Russia’s Military Intelligence Directorate. The GRU is subordinate to the Russian Ministry of Defense and has deployed Spetsnaz troops extensively throughout the Caucasus during previous military engagements with various militant Islamist and separatist groups. The Spetsnaz are currently divided into two, possibly three, brigades of soldiers and officers, and have been training since Spring in all aspects of mountain warfare.
According to the Foreign Military Studies Office, a “high-ranking Southern Military District officer says that the terrorists in the [North] Caucasus have long since been driven into their mountain burrows but…preserve [a possible capability] to infiltrate along gorges…[in certain areas].” The Spetsnaz troops in these mountains are tasked with effectively engaging any enemies or nefarious actors they encounter, and will likely respond to any incidents with swift and overwhelming force.
During the months leading up to the Winter Games, the Spetsnaz have worked to “know all of the routes from Dagestan to the Black Sea”, and have “refined their operating tactics in the mountains, in mountain passes, and ravines.” This training will pay huge dividends should any attempts to enter Sochi come through the mountains from the surrounding Caucasus.
According to Russian reporting, Spetsnaz units will “cover the south of Krasnodar Territory and the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, along the border of Abkhazia” (a federal district and federal subject of Russia, respectively). Since deploying in recent months, the Spetsnaz have “begun patrolling mountain passes, passes and gorges, ambush areas, established barriers, and actively searched the area [for threats].” This extensive coverage should be sufficient to restrict the majority of potential terrorist freedom of movement through the mountains.
The presence of the Spetsnaz in the mountains is a major asset to Russia’s security posture and should provide a force experienced and capable enough to deter or disrupt any external threats to Sochi and the Olympic games. However, the historical threat to Russia from the Caucasus region is also experienced and equally—if not more—intent on disrupting the games as Russia is to protect them.
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