Why were Russian “Black Ops” Spetsnaz, Special-Forces units, at the crash site of the Polish President’s plane, on April 10, 2010, in Smolensk, Russia?
SCND November 25, 2014
At the time of the crash of the Polish government TU-154M, on April 10, 2010, in Smolensk, Russia, the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs (abr. MVD), was led by Rashid Nurgaliyev, appointed to this ministerial post on March 9, 2004, by then President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. Prior to becoming an MVD minister, Nurgaliyev was a senior official in the Russian Federal Security Services (abbr. FSB), a reiteration of the old Soviet KGB under the new name.1
The "Mercury" Black Ops formation discussed in this analysis, is part of the Internal Security Troops under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) of Russian Federation. According to the RF Federal Register N27-F3 from 1997, the tasks assigned to these Interior Troops include: elimination of illegal armed groups and criminal underworld, protection of public order, neutralizing terrorist threats, hostage rescue, and protection of important persons.2
While chronicling the events of the April 10, 2010, the RF (MVD) Ministry of Internal Affairs' website does not mention the involvement of the Spetsnaz Special-Forces troops3 in any activities related to the “protection” of the crash scene in Smolensk.4
During the period between April 13 and April 17, 2010, the Central Command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia carried out a series of regional exercises in 11 regions of Central Russia, including: Smolensk, Moscow, Kursk, Voronezh, Tula and others. As a part of these exercises, the participating Special-Forces units partook in war-games focusing on response to terrorist threats, protection of the infrastructure of large cities and settlements, including communications, railways, bridges and freeway overpasses.5 As a part of the MVD’s reorganization of its Interior Security Troops’ units, the Spetsnaz’s area of responsibilities was broadened to include crowd and riot control functions.6
The MVD Internal Security Troops have at their disposal Mi-8, Mi-24, Mi-26 helicopters, and various transport and mission-support aircraft, including: An-26, An-72, An-12, Tu-134, Tu-154, and IL-76.7 On page 12, Chapter 1, Factual Information, 1.1 History of the flight, the Russian MAK Report notes that “two approaches of the Russian IL-76 [AWACS, Airborne Warning and Control System, NATO reporting name: Candid] aircraft tail number 78817” were made immediately prior to the crash of the Polish president’s plane, never disclosing however, the type of the mission flown by this highly-specialized aircraft in the morning hours of April 10, 2010, in the vicinity of the crash site.
“Vityaz”, the first of the Russian Special-Forces unit of this type to be formed at the end of the 1970s, was stationed in Balashikha, near Moscow. It fought in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, defended the Ostankino television tower in 1993, and took part in the hostage rescue operation at the Dubrovce Theater, in 2003. Since December 2008, it is part of the 604th Special Purpose Centre of the MVD Internal Security Troops. 8
The 25th Special Purpose Detachment “Mercury” discussed in this analysis is stationed in Smolensk. It returned to this city at the end of December 2009, after completing its bloody pacification operations in Chechnya.
It was formed in August 2002, and since 2003, took part in the fighting in the North Caucasus (Chechnya 2003-2009). 9 The second one of these MDV’s units that “protected” Tu-154M crash site was the OMON formation.
There were also other security/intelligence organizations present at the crash scene, including functionaries of the RF Ministry of Extraordinary Affairs, led by Sergei Shoigu; a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union since 1988, an army general, during 2000-2004 Deputy Prime Minister in the Mikhail Kasyanov government, and from 2001, a high-ranking official in Putin’s “United Russia” party.
The overall oversight of the crash scene fell under the jurisdiction of the Federal Security Service, FSB, and Vlaidmir Putin, himself.
Photographic documentation shown in the analysis that follows, proves that the Special Purpose 25th "Mercury" Maroon Beret Black Ops units were present at the crash site of the Polish government Tu-154M, on April 10, 2010.
The first reports about the presence of the Spetsnaz10 operatives at the crash site of the Polish government plane Tu-154M, appeared already at 10:23 a.m., on April 10, 2010.
TVP INFO journalist Peter Kraśko reported live: "Crowds of firemen, police, [Special-Forces] Spetsnaz troops are walking by us." The aircraft, a Russian-built Tupolev TU-154M crashed at 8:41 a.m.11
Above: April 10, 2010. A Spetsnaz unit moving towards the place of the tragedy around 11:00 a.m. In the background we can see a fire truck near the gas station, and a KIA car dealership.
Above: April 10, 2010, 11:30 a.m., a Spetsnaz helicopter lands at the site of the crash.
Above: A Specnaz helicopter during 2013 exercises in Smolensk.
Above: Around 1:00 p.m.
Spetsnaz units at the crash site.
Above: Pictures taken by the reporters and witnesses confirm presence of the Spetsnaz Special-Forces soldiers cordoning off the crash site.
Above: Photos in the bottom row show soldiers wearing maroon berets.
The term "Krapowyi Beret" (rus. краповый берет, maroon beret) is the original Russian name given to the special “Black Ops” commando formations that wear the maroon/burgundy-color berets. Members of these units are part of an elite team selected from a pool of Special-Forces operators based on strictest criteria for physical and intellectual fitness.
The "Krapoviy Beret", or "Maroon Beret" name is synonymous with being part of an elite group of commandos. Achieving this status is rare and signifies a privilege of belonging to the "best of the best". The mere presence of these “Black Ops” Special-Forces units at the site of the plane crash, just after it was announced, is at best peculiar.
In his speech on October 10, 2009, six months before the Smolensk crash, Rashid Gumarovich Nurgaliyev (Russian: Рашид Гумарович Нургалиев), RF Minister of Internal Affairs stated:
The right to wear the maroon berets [...] is the right to carry out the most dangerous and most difficult tasks, related primarily to the rescue of people in the most difficult of situations. Internal [security] troops carry out complex tasks associated with global threats.12
Above: Russian Spetsnaz commando men at Kutuzow Street, and below, at the crash site.
A stylized silver falcon icon, on a black background, is the badge of the 25th Spetsnaz Branch unit of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs Internal Security Troops((Russian: Внутренние войска Министерства внутренних дел - Internal Troops of Ministry of Internal Affairs) stationed in Smolensk.
This "Falcon" badge is also worn by the Spetsnaz units from Kostrov, Bryansk, Orel, Sfrino, and Moscow, as well as all Special-Forces units under jurisdiction of the regional Internal Troops command and control headquarters. In the final MAK Report, on page 101, Chapter 1.15, entitled “Search and Rescue Information” we read that the ”search and rescue measures at the accident site were conducted by the Ministry of Extraordinary Affairs (Rus. Министерство России по делам гражданской обороны, чрезвычайным ситуациям и ликвидации последствий стихийных бедствий, also known as Ministry of Emergency Situations), Regional Search and Rescue Service, municipal and federal administrations”.
The MAK Report conceals the presence of the Spetznaz units at the crash site, and omits the fact of their direct link with the Minister of Extraordinary Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu (Russian: Серге́й Кужуге́тович Шойгу́).
Left: 12:16 p.m.
A Spetsnaz Colonel (wearing a suit, white shirt and tie) awaits the arrival of Sergei Shoigu at the tormac.
Left: Around 14:30 p.m.
Minister Sergei Shoigu arrives onboard Tu-134.
Left: Sergei Shoigu meets the press representative of the Governor of Smolensk, Andrei Evsenikov.
Left: Sergei Shoigu and his special-purpose group on the way to the crash site. A Spetsnaz Colonel (wearing a suit) is talking on a mobile phone. The Army General, Rashid Nurgaliyev (wearing a "kepi" cap), buttons his jacket.
Above: Spetsnaz exercises in Smolensk, October 10, 2009. From left: RF Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliyev (wearing a "kepi" cap), Sergei Antufiev - Smolensk Oblast Governor, and a Spetsnaz Colonel.
Above: Spetsnaz exercises in Smolensk in 2013. From left, foreground: RF Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliyev (wearing a"kepi" cap), Sergei Antufiev - governor of Smolensk Oblast, Nikolai Rogozhkin - Interior Affairs Minister.
Left: Sergei Shoigu approaches the airport fence perimeter, behind which are the remains of the Polish government Tupolev Tu-154M plane. (Behind Mr. Shoigu, we can see a Spetsnaz officer who is putting away a cell phone in his jacket pocket).
Left: 14:35 P.M.
A special-purpose group walks in the direction of the tragedy.
Left: A Spetsnaz Colonel.
Left: Sergei Shoigu and a special-purpose group at the crash site. (First from right is a Spetsnaz officer).
Left: Sergei Shoigu leading in front, followed by the Interior Affairs Minister, Rashid Nurgaliyev.
Left: The Minister of Extraordinary Situations gives an interview in which he reports that he has not yet been to the place where the TU-154M plane veered off course.
Left: A black Lexus with a magnetic emergency light on the roof, drives past the gate to the Smolensk-Severny airport.
Left: A motorcade of three vehicles carrying Sergei Shoigu’s special-purpose group near the NDB radio locator location.
Left: 16:40 p.m.
The special-purpose group on a dirt road leading through a sloped area, diverts to the AVTOZAVODSKAYA-2 garage complex. In the foreground, with his back showing, is a Spetsnaz Colonel. Behind him, Rashid Nurgaliyev.
Left: Officers look around and point in different directions with their hands.
Left: Three stars and stripes on the sleeve jacket leave no doubt - it is a Spetsnaz Colonel.
Left: Rashid Nurgaliyev during the 2013 exercises (left), and at the location of the Polish President's plane crash in 2010 (right).
Left: 4:47 p.m.
The special-purpose group walks towards the AVTOMOTORS. They are walking by the area where fragments of the left wing were deposited. At the head of the group is Minister Sergei Shoigu. The four figures on the right side of the frame are the Special--Forces soldiers.
Left: 4:48 p.m.
Followed by two Spetsnaz officers is Sergei Shoigu’s special-purpose group near the AVTOMOTORS.
Left: 9:40 p.m.
Vladimir Putin, and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the site of the crash. Behind Putin is Rashid Nurgaliyev.
It is noteworthy that the bus carrying Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the brother of the President Lech Kaczynski, Polish officials, and members of the victims' families to the crash site in Smolensk on April 10, 2010, was intentionally delayed for hours inside of Russia, in order to stage the photo-op of Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Vladimir Putin.
This troubling incident which has not been reported outside of Poland is vividly described in the documentary entitled "Mgła" (Eng. "Fog").
Left: Same photo close-up showing General Rashid Nurgaliyev behind Vladimir Putin.
Left: "Staff Briefing" in a tent. From the right: Sergei Antufiev - Governor of the Smolensk Oblast, Rashid Nurgaliyev - (Spetsnaz) Army General, Mikhail Osipienko, Supreme Commander of the RF Ministry for Extraordinary Emergencies, Smolensk District, and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin - then Prime Minister of Russian Federation.
Left: April 11, 2010, 15:51 p.m.
Identification of the remains of the victims of the Tu-154M aircraft on the tarmac. In the back of the frame, first on the right, is a Russian Special-Forces Colonel.
Left: Smolensk’s “Mercury” Spetznaz men.
1. Russian Special-Forces training center, bearing the name "Mercury", is located in Zhornovka near Smolensk. Zhornovka is located north of the Smolensk-Pechersk-Zhukovo line, some twenty kilometers from downtown Smolensk.13
The mere presence of Special-Forces units in maroon berets13 at the site of the plane crash, just after finding out that it happened, can arouse suspicion. "The right to wear the maroon berets - said Rashid Nurgaliyev, RF Minister of Internal Affairs - [...] is the right to carry out the most dangerous and most difficult tasks, related primarily to the rescue of people in the most difficult situations. Internal [security] troops carry out complex tasks associated with global threats."14
Did the situation observed by the first witnesses at the site of the Polish Tu-154 "accident" really justify bringing in this elite “Maroon Beret” commando force? Have these forces been historically deployed under similar circumstances, i.e., plane crashes at military airports? If so, then WHOM and WHEN did they rescue?
A hypothetical question can be posed in this context: Would one expect to see a Navy Seals unit at the crash site of an airliner? The answer is an unequivocal: No!
Were the Spetsnaz men there to carry out an operation in response to some perceived “Global Threat”, as seen from the Kremlin’s perspective?
The term "Krapowyi Beret" (rus. краповый берет, "Maroon Beret") is the original Russian name given to the special “Black Ops” commando formations that wear the maroon/burgundy-color berets. Members of these units are part of an elite team selected from a pool of Special-Forces operators based on strictest criteria for physical and intellectual fitness.
The "Krapoviy Beret" name is synonymous with being part of an elite group of commandos. Achieving this status is rare and signifies a privilege of belonging to the best of the best.
The "Mercury" unit and the Special-Forces Training Center operated in Zhornovka, bearing the same name, are - as it seems - two separate entities.
However, the question of whether the "Mercury" training center has a military, combat-ready unit, under the same name, or whether it has a modern combat-tactical training center called “Mercury”, is asked quite often in Russia.
2. The “Mercury”, a Russian troops training center operates under the jurisdiction of the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs (abbr. MVD, Rus. Министерство внутренних дел). Two times per year, it gives arduous qualification exams to the internal Troops soldiers who wish to become part of the elite “Maroon Beret” formation. Soldiers representing many specialties, including OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Unit(s), Rus. Отряд мобильный особого назначения), intelligence services, and others, take these exams. They come from bases throughout Russia. In order to qualify, they must have been with Spetsnaz for not less than 12 months. They may seek to obtain the “maroon beret” only at their own request, submitted to the authorities of the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs.15
Until October 2009, there were only two such Special-Forces training centers in Russia: the Smolensk "Mercury", and the "Center 604" in Moscow (formed on the basis of two earlier Special-Forces formations known as “Vityaz” (Russian: Витязь, "Knight") and "Rus", identified by a clenched fist patch. After Gen. Rashid Nurgaliyev, Minister of Internal Affairs, speech on October 10, 2009, plans were made to create more of these training centers.
These centers carry out a multi-disciplinary training of Russia’s elite “Black Ops” units; Russia’s "best of the best", and most ruthless of the ruthless. These - as claimed Nurgaliyev - have to be at the highest operational readiness at any time, and in any situation, "on the ground, on the water, under water and in the air".16
On December 10, 2009, from among well-over 100 Spetsnaz operators who entered the arduous examination program, only 36 completed it successfully, receiving the right to wear a maroon beret. The entry of these 36 men into the ranks, increased the overall number of the Maroon Berets trained in Smolensk to 183. As of February 6, 2011, there were 41 Maroon Berets in Smolensk itself. By June 1, 2011, from among 119 candidates, another 27 Special-Forces operators completed the training successfully, bringing the total number of Maroon Berets to 210 men. If we were to assume that only approximately 1/3 of the candidates had completed the training successfully, then as of mid-2011, this elite formation would have some 600 men in its ranks. On October 10, 2009, Minister Nurgaliyev stated that “now, more than 500 soldiers in Russian Internal Troops wear the ‘maroon berets’ ”.17
3. The Smolensk Military Unit 7459 is part of the “Mercury’s” special-purpose 25th Detachment, and is considered to be an elite formation amongst the Russian Internal Security Troops units. Their distinct stripes on the shoulders (clenched fist atop of weapons against the red star), and the type of berets they wore at the time, and the location of the crash, clearly indicates the use of the Internal Security "Black Ops" units on April 10, 2010. It is likely that these were the 25th Spetsnaz “Mercury” (Unit 7459) troops from Smolensk. 18
An icon of a stylized silver falcon on a black background is a badge of the 25 Special Forces branch of the Ministry of Interior Troops in Smolensk. This "Falcon" badge is also worn by Special-Forces troops from Bryansk - Selco, units in Kostrov, Orel, Sofrino, and Moscow (95th and 55th Internal Troops Divisions), as well as all units subject to the regional internal security troops command chain.
It was created in 2002 on the foundation of the existing Internal Security Troops units. Its history however, can be traced back to the year 1922, when an emerging Soviet state began to establish first of these uniform organizational structures for newly formed convoy protection battalions. It is around this time that the first of these types of command centers was established in the Smolensk Oblast. However, it is only during the period of the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939-1940, that these units gained their first combat experience. These were formally transformed into a regiment in June 1941.
Its combat history includes taking part in the defense of Moscow, and engagements around the Smolensk province. After the caseation of hostilities in Europe, the Smolensk Regiment was liquidated. Information available on its recent history points to its involvement in the First Chechen War, the siege of Grozny, as well as bloody pacification operations in the greater Chechnya. During the Second Chechen War the unit was part of the First Special Motorized Regiment of RF internal Troops.
On orders from the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs from 2002, these units became a foundation of the autonomous Special-Forces combat Detachment 25, known as the "Mercury". Beginning in 2003, “Mercury” was used primarily for fighting in the North Caucasus. In recognition of its "effectiveness in carrying out bloody pacification operations in Chechnya, and the Caucasus regions”, it earned the right to wear “a special symbol of courage and valor”- the “maroon beret”. Its importance to Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs was so significant, that - according to popular opinion, and an assessment made by one well-known Russian journalist, at present, it has at its disposal an entire Zhornovka base, and unique - by the Russian standards - Special Forces training facilities and equipment, which enable a thorough development “of the desired habits of reacting” in the Spetznaz Special-Forces operators.
What remains unexplained to this day, is the role of the large number of Russian special services officers who appeared at the crash site almost immediately after the President’s plane disintegrated into some 60,000 pieces in the air. These dwindling questions concern not only the role of the Spetsnaz, and its Black Ops Maroon Berets units, but also the FSB, OMON (Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs anti-terrorist squads), as well as SOBR (Rus. СОБР (Специальный Отряд Быстрого Реагирования) units; these are far better trained and equipped than OMON, and their stated purpose is counter-terrorism and combatting the "subversive” anti-Putin elements within Russia. Similarly, the role of some dozen individuals who “wore white medical garbs over their business suits”, who were seen at the crash site within minutes after it happened, and who were observed by a Polish Consul, and by Marcin Wierzchowski, member of the Lech Kaczynski’s Chancellery, also remain unanswered. These concerns are amplified by the fact, that according to the information contained in the official Russian MAK Report, “the first medical rescue brigade” appeared at the crash site only at 8:58 a.m., that is, 17 minutes after the plane has disintegrated in the air.
The trip to Smolensk was expected to highlight Russia finally admitting culpability in the massacre, after long having blamed it on the Germans, an atrocity they had tried to conceal for over 70 years.
As for the reception committee, it had different ideas. Putin wasn’t looking forward to such an occasion. Into this poisonous reception brew was President Kaczynski’s well-known public criticism of Moscow and Putin, a habit that has ended the lives of others within Russia – and abroad. A few discouraging Russian requirements – that Kaczynski could not attend in any official capacity – did not halt the Poles. Kaczynski would go anyway on non-official, “personal” business. To Russians, such a distinction would be meaningless, not lessening the possible international excoriation of such an event. A problem ripe for a modern, Russian solution: a tragic, ‘natural’ accident.
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