Are Russia’s Spetsnaz Special Forces In Ukraine?

Russian special forces – Spetsnaz- have been accused of infiltrating eastern Ukraine and providing Ukrainian separatists there with arms, training and other kinds of support.  So far western and Ukrainian officials have offered little solid evidence to support such claims, which could be because Russia’s special forces are trained to work in stealthy ways.


 Russia has a long history of using highly trained special forces to shape conflicts in secret and deceptive ways.  Today these troops go by the name of GRU Spetsnaz (GRU is the main Russian foreign military intelligence service, spetsnaz means “special purpose”).

Unique Capabilities[contextly_sidebar id=”mTyiWJ3NDUA8L32YtWW4TWDdNdxgzfuI”]

Spetsnaz forces are adept at working covertly in conflict zones. They focus on collecting military intelligence and are experts at clever tactics designed to improve Russian military outcomes. Their capabilities include:

Counted among their skills is their ability to operate in a manner that enables them to maintain plausible deniability.  In addition, working within native populations or behind enemy lines,  Spetsnaz operatives are known for being able to cloak their identities.

Notable Spetsnaz Actions Since 1986

Russia’s special forces have proven to be a unique asset to the country. Since 1986, some of their notable activities have included:

  • Ukraine 2014: Spetsnaz forces have been accused by Ukrainian and U.S. officials of    helping Ukraine separatists via covert operations.  Such claims have been difficult to prove, however

  • Sochi Olympics 2014: Russia’s special forces provided security for the Olympics to protect it from possible terrorist attacks

The Takeaway

While officials from the west and Ukraine have difficulty proving Spetsnaz troop activities in Ukraine, the aphorism,  “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” may be apt, especially considering Spetsnaz training in stealth and deniability.

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