Alpha Group

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Also known as Alfa Squad, Alpha Squad or more specifically Alpha Group, this paramilitary unit belongs to OSNAZ of the Russian secret police. It currently is believed to consist of 700 persons, 400 assigned to the Moscow Detachment and the other 300 located in other cities in Russia. It has also been described as the secretive anti-terrorist unit of the FSB (former KGB).



Alpha Squad's primary function is believed to be to carry out urban counter-terrorist missions under the direct sanction and control of the Russian political leadership. However, little is publicly known and other plausible missions would include a variety of paramilitary, policing and/or covert operations.

Training and Equipment

By Russian standards, Alpha squad is lavishly supported and funded and has access to state of the art small arms and equipment. They are known to employ chemical agents in hostage rescue operations and be capable of functioning in an NBC environment. Little further information is publicly available. At a guess, they would have both sniper and counter-sniper capability, tactical EMS, demolitions, tactical intelligence and other functions typical of both police SWAT teams and the special operations community. It is unknown whether they have dedicated hostage negotiators.


"Alpha Group" or Group A, a special forces (spetsnaz) or special operations detachment OSNAZ unit attached to the KGB was created 29 July 1974 within the First Chief Directorate of the KGB on the orders of Yuri Andropov, then Chairman of the KGB. It was intended for secret foreign operations.

Their most notable mission during the Soviet period was the seizure of Amin's palace in Afghanistan on December 27 1979, the special operation which began the Afghan war. According to many Russian sources of information (including the memoires of the Alpha and other compounds' officers that took part in the seizure), the operation was called Шторм-333 (English: "Storm-333"). Jointly with the Alpha group, called Гром (English:Thunder) in that time, which consisted of 24 men, in the operation took part other special KGB group: Зенит(English:Zenith) — 30 men. Also from the USSR Ministry of Defense in the operation participated so called Muslim battalion — 520 men (which consisted exclusively of the soldiers from the southern republics of the USSR) and one Air Landing company—100 men. In the operation Alpha group lost 2 men, Zenith group lost 3 men, Muslim battalion — 5 men and the Air Landing company — 9 men; more than 50 were wounded. The Afghani president, Hafizullah Amin and his approximately 200 elite guards were killed. During the operation also other governmental buildings such as the Ministry of Interior building, the Internal Security (KHAD) building and the General Staff building were seized. Alpha group's veterans call this operation one of the most successful in the group's history.

During the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 the Alpha group, under the command of Major General Viktor Karpukhin was assigned the task of entering the White House, Russia's parliament building, and killing Boris Yeltsin and the other Russian leaders following a planned assault on the entrance by paratroopers. This order was unanimously refused.

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan they were called "red devils" by the Mujaheddin. The unit has continued to exist after the collapse of the Soviet Union and has been used in a variety of difficult situations, such as the Moscow Theatre Siege.

The most recent operation conducted by Alpha was the liberation of Moscow hostages and the killing of 49 well-armed guerrillas in the Moscow theatre siege of 2002. In the latest Moscow hostage crisis there have been reported 129 hostages killed, but taking notice of the whole amount of all the hostages present in the theater, this number is roughly 16%. No hostages were killed by Alpha operative gunfire. It should be noted, however that many special forces units tasked with hostage rescue operations would consider an operation in which even a single hostage died to be a failed operation, regardless of the cause of death. The hostages killed in the Moscow theatre siege died as a result of the use of nerve toxins by Alpha operatives.


The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, Basic Books, 1999, hardcover edition, ISBN 0-465-00310-9, pages 389-391.

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