About stories and Sergey GONCHAROV, 15, who faithfully served in the ranks of this legendary anti-terrorist unit, told the National Defense magazine about the modern combat activities of the Alpha Group of the Special Purpose Center of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation
- Sergey Alekseevich, what were the reasons for the creation of the Alpha group? And why was the name chosen for the antiterror group? Maybe because “alpha” is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and the group bearing such a name should always be the first in the fight against terror?
- The Alpha Group was created in the distant 1974 year. It was the heyday of the Soviet Union and at the same time in the 1970-s certain problems began to manifest themselves with terror and with ensuring public safety in our country. The first problem that caused the creation of the Alpha Special Forces was dissident. Many dissidents at that time committed extraordinary acts. The second reason is that the countries of the likely enemy, such as Germany, Great Britain, the USA, France, already had similar units. The third reason is that the Olympics in Munich in 1972 showed that a group of armed terrorists could capture and destroy hostages, striking a blow at the prestige of the state. We were preparing for the Olympics-80 and understood that it was necessary to ensure the safety of this large-scale event. These three reasons prompted the chairman of the KGB of the USSR, Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov, to sign the 29 on July 1974, an order establishing the group “A”. Initially, its structure included only 50 people - only KGB officers of the USSR with an impeccable reputation.
Sergey Alekseevich GONCHAROV - President of the Association of Veterans of the Alfa Anti-Terrorism Unit, President of the Russian Security Enterprises Union, Deputy of the Moscow City Duma
As for the name, the leadership of the KGB of the USSR really believed that we should be the first. The problem of terrorism has already troubled our country, and Alpha should have become a brand, a real force that successfully solves antiterrorist tasks. And she does it productively already 41 year.
- How did the accumulation of knowledge on combating terrorism occur in 1970s? Was an analytical center organized for this? Did the leadership of the Alpha group have to start you from scratch or were there employees who already had certain knowledge from the field of antiterror, having received them in the Border Troops or on foreign business trips?
- Initially, we worked at random, determined what to do and what to study, studied the subject field. They picked up all the documents regarding the events of terror and anti-terror that took place in Europe and the USA. PGU KGB also assisted us in obtaining the necessary materials to combat terror. In Moscow, we studied all the airports and stations. Identified outgoing threats to passengers and aircraft. We worked storming all types of aircraft that flew in the USSR. Everything was worked out thoroughly in practice and in the plans.
Abroad, our employees did undergo training, but the information on this account constitutes a state secret. In addition, officers from the special forces from the Warsaw Pact countries or from countries loyal to the USSR came to us and trained us. For example, Cuban hand-to-hand combat taught us.
As for the analytical center, at Alpha it was and still exists, has extensive experience in collecting and analyzing information on terror and anti-terror.
- What were and are the criteria for the selection of candidates in the group "Alpha"?
- The first condition is to be an officer of the KGB of the USSR, and now it is advisable to be an officer of the FSB or an officer of the army special forces with combat experience. The second is the willingness to undergo selection in accordance with the physical standard that was developed for admission to the unit. There was a requirement to have the first rank in any applied type of sport, for example, hand-to-hand combat, shooting, etc. There were people who had pre-training and fighting swimmer skills. High demands were placed on moral-volitional qualities - overcoming a sense of fear and the ability to work in a team. We all went through parachute training, running tanks, training and tests that make it possible to understand whether an officer can fight his fear and perform a combat mission. Initially, we recruited mainly KGB operational officers. In the 1980s, they began to recruit candidates for admission to the unit from the airborne units and border troops, as they were closer to us in training.
There are many people who want to serve in our special unit, we have a big bench. Selection is on very many criteria. Of the ten candidates are selected one or two people.
Since its inception in the Alpha group, serious attention has been paid to parachute training.
- What does the training in the Alpha group look like? On the development of what skills and fighting qualities of the fighters in the "Alpha" is a bet?
- Preparation is a combat duty on which our officers intercede. Employees of our special forces are in constant combat readiness to fly to anywhere in Russia. Since the creation of Group A, the country has not been without an anti-terrorist umbrella - the cover methods developed by our division. We are always on alert. The day begins with physical training, followed by shooting and the study of those situations that were in the history of anti-terror and special operations. These events are worked out in the classrooms and in practice, are analyzed in detail, errors are considered, and then taken into service by the employees of group “A”.
We have a specialization, and there is no such employee who could do everything. There are snipers, combat swimmers, miners, negotiators, assault team. By the way, in “Alpha” a lot of time is devoted to mountain training. The emphasis is on the development of endurance, perseverance, dexterity, ingenuity, teamwork skills. After all, success in the fight against terror depends on the coordinated actions of the entire operational-combat group that takes part in the special operation.
- Is the psychological work done with the Alpha fighters to prepare the thinking fighter, or the Alpha fighter, is, above all, the result of lengthy physical training?
- Special Forces officer training takes five to six years. Training is carried out systematically, and the emphasis is on both the strict execution of the order and the development of operational tactical ingenuity. The Alpha fighter is not a robot, it is a creatively thinking warrior, ready to adapt to the conditions of the combat mission, to make decisions during a combat operation, taking into account the orders of the command.
- By the way, the employee of "Alpha" is called a "fighter" or "operative"? And what is the emphasis in "Alpha" in combat training: on teamwork or on single training?
- An employee of Alpha is called a “fighter”, not an “operative”. And there is something heroic about it. Employees of "Alpha" are proud of this name.
As for training, the snipers are preparing to act alone and with an assistant. The success of this employee is the key to the success of the entire operation. Assault groups are preparing to act cohesively, as part of one team - as a whole.
Sergey Goncharov with his comrades in Afghanistan.
- Do Alpha officers jump with a parachute? Does the group pay attention to parachute training?
- The officers of “Alpha” constantly jump with a parachute. Only during the initial parachute training is done ten jumps. "Alpha" is able to parachute into any territory in full combat gear and perform a combat mission on landing.
- Does Alpha escort high-ranking officials like the German GSG 9 or the American Delta?
“We monitored the security of our delegation in Cuba in the summer of 1978, in the event of a terrorist attack.” Alpha ensured and ensures, at the direction of the country's leadership, the security of the top officials of the state. After 1991, the Alpha group was transferred to the General Directorate of Protection. And then Alfa ensured the security of two presidents - Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.
- How much time is spent on training the Alpha sniper? What is the feature of sniper training? Or, taking into account the significant time that the group is devoted to fire training, can we say that all the “alfists” are snipers? Are there any special sniper groups in Alpha, as in the special forces of the Airborne Forces, or do the snipers work as part of operational-combat groups? Has Alpha carried out successful operations to free the hostages using snipers?
- The skill of the Alpha sniper is at a high level, as he must hit a terrorist and not be taken hostage. In international competitions, we occupy the first places in sniper training. Not all "alfovtsy" are snipers, but at the same time shoot high quality of all kinds weapons. The peculiarity of the Alpha sniper training lies in the emphasis on anti-terror, work in urban conditions, when the enemy covers himself hostage. The Alpha sniper must lie in the position for as long as it takes to successfully resolve the operation. Snipers work both independently and as part of the task forces.
The successful operation with the use of a sniper "Alpha" was carried out on Vasilyevsky Spusk in Moscow in 1995, when the criminal seized a bus with 25 by South Korean tourists. The sniper determined the course of the operation and eliminated the criminal.
- Does Alpha use anti-terror equipment and reconnaissance in operational combat activities? For example, drones?
- UAVs have come into use a long time ago both in army units of special purpose and in special services. Now, high-quality intelligence gathering depends on them. "Alpha" - a modern special unit and uses drones in the process of training. In general, the technical equipment of the group is given a high value.
- Explosive devices are the main weapon of terrorists. Have you come across this type of terrorism? Is sufficient attention paid to mine training at Alpha?
- During the first and second Chechen wars, in the course of the struggle against illegal armed formations, Alpha was confronted with the combat use of mines, land mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In Alpha, a lot of time is spent on mine anti-terror, the previous domestic and foreign experience is being studied. There is a group of special demolition men who work both to counteract IEDs and mine clearance, and to carry out blasting operations during the storming of the building. Successful operations of this type were carried out in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and the North Caucasus, during special operations.
- How does the structure of "Alpha"? It is known that the British SAS and the German GSG 9 are formed on the principle of a sphere of action: land, sea, air. SAS also has a mountain squadron. "Alpha" is arranged also?
- When creating the Alpha, the organizational and staff structures of the Western special services were not copied, but were taken into account. We have professional combat swimmers, high-level snipers, high-class specialists in mountain training. The group is formed depending on the specific combat mission. Of the more than a hundred of our operations there were not two identical ones, each time we received new introductory ones. It makes you gain experience every time. For example, one thing is to conduct an operation to free hostages in Beslan or Nord-Ost. It took the efforts of snipers and assault groups. Another thing is to ensure the safety of a major sporting event, such as the recent Olympics, for example. It is clear that to ensure safety in a city like Sochi, which is located in the coastal mountainous terrain, specialists with mountain and underwater training are required.
With comrades - the leaders of "Alpha".
- The assault on Amin’s palace in Afghanistan in 1979 showed that Alpha was taking part in offensive operations. Speaking the language of the GRU special forces, it was a classic attack, followed by assault. Is Alpha doing such operations now? Have there been any other successful operations of this nature?
- The assault on the palace of Amin entered the history of special forces as the best special operation of the squad that was at that time. It was an operation of brave and fearless people who were going to a clear death. And they understood what they were going to.
The uniqueness of that operation was in its difficulty. In fire contact, I had to face trained military units and bodyguard structures. Alpha was an anti-terrorist group, but during that operation, along with other groups, acted as a strike assault unit. It was necessary, risking life, to overcome the line of fire, to neutralize the armed enemy. As a result of this operation, we concluded that our officers are capable of successfully carrying out offensive operations and operating in a complex operational environment.
Now Alpha devotes enough time to working on past operations, for each operation itself is unique, but its elements can be repeated. Alfa did not have such operations anymore, but elements of the assault appeared in Beslan and Nord-Ost when it was necessary to storm barricaded buildings covered by enemy snipers.
- You were the deputy commander of the group "Alpha". What responsibilities lay exactly on you?
- We had several deputies, and we carried out the orders of the commander of the group "Alpha". There was no clear definition of which deputy is responsible for what; everything depended on a specific task. The deputy commander of a group could, for example, lead an operation or one of the assault groups, or join the headquarters for the development of the operation, or lead a group of negotiators.
- During your service at Alpha, the group conducted dozens of successful operations. Which one was the most successful? Which of your officers distinguished themselves?
- In Sarapul 17 December 1981, military soldiers took 25 students as hostages
10 class on school grounds. Alpha was airlifted and immediately launched an assault. In the course of joint actions with the local 7 administration of the KGB, the employees of Group A skillfully and professionally carried out neutralization, disarmed and captured the criminals without a single shot. The professionalism of "Alpha" consisted in a thin operational calculation and knowledge of the psychology of terrorists.
Another well-known operation to free hostages from the Yakshiyants gang was carried out in the Mineral Waters of December 1-3 of 1988. And although the leadership of the KGB of the USSR decided to make temporary concessions to the terrorists and canceled the assault, the staff of our special forces were ready for action. During this action, our fighters accompanied the bus with the captured children, took part in the negotiations. Here officer Valery Bochkov distinguished himself, risking his life, was carrying bags of money to terrorists to exchange them for the captured children. After the extradition of terrorists by the government of the State of Israel, Group A flew to this country to convoy the criminals. The skillful actions of Group A, the coolness of the staff ensured the successful release of the hostages and the subsequent extradition of the terrorists.
- In Sukhumi, you carried out a special operation to free the hostages of increased complexity with the special unit of the internal forces "Vityaz". What was the role of the “A” group in this operation?
- Alpha conducted an operation to free the hostages in the Sukhumi detention center 15 August 1990. The specifics of the place, the readiness of the leaders - mothers of criminals and their assistants, armed, including automatic weapons, a significant number of hostages taken hostage complicated the operation. The special unit was commanded by the Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel Viktor Karpukhin. A 22 fighter arrived with him in Sukhumi. In addition, 27 fighters arrived from the Vityaz special forces unit led by commander Colonel Sergei Ivanovich Lysyuk. The bandits who captured the detention center, demanded a car and a helicopter. In the process of preparing the operation, alfovtsy mined a vehicle intended for terrorists, and together with Vityaz they formed three assault groups. The first group led by Mikhail Kartofelnikov stormed the bus. The second group, led by Major Mikhail Maximov and the Vityaz Assault Group, attacked the bandits on the floors. The first group put an end to the operation, because in the car were the leaders of the bandits who were killed during the capture. An important role was played by the second assault group and Vityaz. Thanks to their professionalism, an isolator was freed. Alpha showed her skills both in releasing hostages and in using subversive charges, which allowed her to shock the criminals and break open rooms.
- The operation in the village of Pervomaiskoye on January 18 was 1996 of the year anti-terrorist or counter-guerrilla? What was the role of Alpha in this operation? In general, "Alpha" is often attracted to the fight against illegal armed groups?
- In Pervomaisk there was a combined arms battle. Alpha had the lead role. But the use of Alpha as a combined arms unit in the open field was incorrect, and this caused the death of our officers. At the same time, Alpha was used as an assault group to free the hostages.
During the Afghan and Chechen campaigns, Alpha was a shock force in the fight against illegal armed groups.
- How did the military operations in Chechnya enrich the experience of Alpha? There, the enemy had considerable experience in guerrilla warfare and small-group actions. How hard was the victory over such an adversary?
- The fighting on the territory of Chechnya, and they can be safely called a war, gave our officers tremendous military experience. It was the experience of fighting both small units armed with small arms and large gangs with heavy weapons. The enemy used partisan tactics, raids, ambushes, and head-on collisions. "Alpha" studied to fight as an army special unit. The greatest difficulty was the battles in Zelenka.
- How competently did Group A work to free the hostages at Nord-Ost? What factors allowed her to succeed? Why were the losses among the hostages?
- Alpha stormed the building and completed its task of freeing more than a thousand hostages and destroying 38 gangsters. Success was ensured by the coordinated actions of the assault group, the reconnaissance group and the cover group. Our task was fire and assault. During those events a special task was carried out. And the losses relate to this event. But this special event was not implemented by the Alpha group.
- Does Alpha draw conclusions from the modern war on terror that is being waged throughout the world? How does this affect her training?
- We are seriously analyzing the actions of our Western and Turkish partners in the fight against IS in Syria and Iraq. After all, IS represents a danger to the whole world.
- It is known that foreign antiterrorist teams maintain partnership with each other. In particular, the French GIGN collaborates with the British SAS. SАС cooperates and shares experience with the American Delta. Does Alpha have experience sharing partnerships? And if so, with whom?
- We maintain partnerships with the Belarusian and Kazakh Alpha, but not as deep as our Western partners.
- Name the most outstanding officers of Alpha, their successful operations.
I would especially like to mention the Hero of the Soviet Union, Gennady Nikolaevich Zaitsev, he was in charge of the division the longest, carried out dozens of operations to free the hostages, educated a whole galaxy of heroes-fighters of the group “A”. I would like to mention the commander of the management of "A" in 2003-2014, Vladimir Nikolaevich Vinokurov. He was at the head of the unit during the second Chechen campaign, continued the military traditions established by the first commanders of Alpha, and performed well in the course of anti-terrorist operations. In particular, he commanded the fighting of our special forces in Beslan in 2004 year. An example of a remarkable feat was demonstrated by Major Alexander Perov, a fighter of our special forces, who was awarded the title of Hero of Russia, who covered the woman and child with his body and saved them with his life.