KGB Alpha team training manual

KGB Alpha team training manual

(Parte 5 de 8)

The Soyuz group received widespread support from within the Soviet military, whose professional officer class had been especially hard hit. Their budgets were radically cut, and Gorbachev had initiated troop withdrawals from East Germany. Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, where living was gOod for Soviet officers and their families. Back in the USSR, their wages were slashed, and no housing was provided for their families. Invariably, officers had to live in an officer's hotel30 while their families went to live with their parents, which could be on the other side of the USSR.

In a rebuttal to Kiva, the cochairman of Soyuz, Colonel Viktor

Alksnis, accused the democrats of being the real coup threat. Alksnis, a member of the Latvian and Soviet parliaments, was a military officer based in the Baltic States. The events that led to the August 1991 coup attempt were centered on the Baltic States and are far more sinister than the public has been led to believe.

The impetus for the coup came from three major sources: the defense minister, KGB chairman, and interior minister31• These three controlled not only the conventional forces but also the special assignment forces of the USSR. During the attempted coup, they used all these units in the fight against democracy in an illegal manner--even by Soviet law. Not only did their actions overstep the law, they also used forces that clearly were outside legal boundaries, the Russian mafia.

The Russian mafia is no relation to the Cosa Nostra or Italian mafia. In Russian, "mafia" is a generic term for racketeers, black marketeers, and gangsters. The mafia organizations are becoming even more organized, and although the current situation is more akin to Chicago in the 1920s with gang fights over territory, it will develop into something bigger, more violent, and more sinister than its Italian counterpart.

The Russian mafia was opposed to the breakup of the Soviet

Union because that reduced the mafia's power. Mafia leaders feared that corrupt nationalist officials would have more sympathy for gangsters from their own national groups than for "foreigners," such as Russians. Second, new national borders meant greater difficulty in transporting their illegal goods, thus more bribes would have to be paid. Under the existing system, if a Communist party boss in Estonia or Byelorussia wanted "hard currency" goods from the West, he got them in return for arranging favors for the mafia gangs. An Estonian nationalist politician might have more interest in his nation than himself.

The KGB and Communist party found the Russian mafia a useful ally. Soon after the Communist party in the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) was voted out of power, the Russian mafia moved in to increase lawlessness, robbery, prostitution, and murder. The Communist bosses then turned around and said, "Look, under the nationalists, law and order breaks down."

The Soviets invaded the Baltic States much as they had

Poland in 1939, which resulted in the Soviet-Nazi carving up of Poland. On the night of 14 June 1941, 60,0 men, women, and children were arrested in the three Baltic nations, herded into cattle cars, and shipped to Siberia. In the days and weeks that followed, thousands more were sent. After the invasion, the Soviets shipped in settlers from the other Soviet republics and did their best to eradicate the Baltic languages, music, and traditions. With glasnost', the truth of what happened in and since 1941 started to come out.

Not until the late 1980s did the Estonians, Latvians, and

Lithuanians reemerge to retake control of their own destinies. On 30 March 1988, Estonia, though still occupied by the Soviet military, declared itmself a sovereign nation. Further acts toward independence followed, including restoration of the language. Then on 2 February, 1990 the Estonian parliament declared national independence. Similar laws were enacted in Latvia and Lithuania. The old-style Communists were voted out of power, and they linked up with their friends in Moscow and in the organs of government, the KGB , MVD, and the Defense Ministry. In the Baltic States they formed themselves into the Interfront and then tried to raise ethnic tensions between Baits and non-Baits by presenting their struggle as Bait against Russian rather than democ- racy versus communism.

The link between the men in Moscow (particularly Boris

Pugo) and the direct action in the Baltic States was Colonel Nikolai Goncharenko, a leading Interfront activist and founder. In Apri11991, Moscow appointed Goncharenko as the immediate superior ofOMON units housed in Lithuania (Vilnius) and Latvia

(Riga). Moscow had selected OMON to be the vanguard of the attack upon independence and prodemocracy organizations with- in the USSR.

The first deployment of the OMON was on 21 August 1988 against members of the Democratic Union in Moscow. On 2 November 1990, OMON based in the Moldavian Republic that borders Romania were used against independence demonstrators in the town of Dubossary, resulting in three civilian deaths caused by OMON fire. In a demonstration of how the conservatives in the Soviet administration were willing to exploit ethnic and national feuds, the Soviet 4th Army of the Caucasus assisted

OMON32 of the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry. From 2 Apri11991, they carried out attacks and deportations within the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, destroying Armenian villages. Soviet journalists who were present were told that the sweep was against Armenian Special Forces, which had hidden heavy weapons. This proved to be a lie because only hunting weapons belonging to a state farm and some police weapons taken from Armenian police officers were recovered.

On 6 May 1991, OMON and Soviet regular troops ambushed a busload of Armenian police, killing three, wounding three, and capturing six. The three wounded were later killed. The attack was a blatant cross-border violation. In the days that followed, further ambushes and village raids took place. The Interior Ministry official personally in charge at these operations was identified as Major General Andreev of the Central Criminal Department of the MVD. In late May, the USSR Procurator General's office declared the actions of the army and OMON to be criminal and started investigations into acts committed in the disputed border area. The activities of OMON units and their allies were not isolated and specific to that situation, but rather part of wider action in the Baltic States sponsored from Moscow and involving the Defense Ministry, KGB, and MVD.

Once the Baltic States had started on their road to freedom, the

KGB stepped up its technical surveillance operations to gather intelligence of the Baltic States' intentions. They fed this to the Communist party iri the Baltic States, the Interfront. Interfront had also formed its own paramilitary unit, which in Estonia was led by Mikhail Lysenko and paraded in paramilitary uniforms.

The OMON joined Soviet navy personnel in occupying the former Communist party building in the fashionable Riga suburb of Jurmala on 9 November 1990. They began an official but covert terror campaign that lasted until the defeat of the Moscow coup .attempt in August 1991. Before this campaign, Communist hardliners had used their usual rent-a-crowd techniques to try and intimidate opponents and shout down those who disagreed. But these Interfront-organized tactics failed. Mobs packed with out-ofuniform soldiers, KGB, and mafia thugs found themselves outnumbered 10-and sometimes even 100-to 1 when they tried storming the nationalist parliament buildings. When they tried to sing Communist anthems, they were outsung with nationalist ones. Unarmed action hadn't worked, so they turned to armed action.

Following the action of the Riga OMON, the Latvian parliament stripped it of its police status in the republic. The USSR Ministry of the Interior immediately placed it under the orbit of the 42nd MVD Interior Forces Division based in the Baltic States ' thus restoring its MVD powers. On 2 January, the Riga OMON stormed the Journalists' Union headquarters and raised a red flag over it. In Lithuania, OMON seized the old Communist party building in Vilnius. Its claim to legitimacy was that it was protecting CPSU property in line with President Gorbachev's decree.

In October 1989, while working in Scandinavia, I was briefed on the Baltic situation and asked whether IBA would be prepared to assist the Baltic governments in setting up security details. Up until 1988, the the KGB Ninth Department had supplied bodyguards, but the nationalist politicians obviously didn't want KGB minders and, therefore, had to form their own secret service details. They viewed assistance from Western government agencies as interference, but both the nationalists and Moscow would accept IBA.

IBA began training operations in the Baltic States that have taken me on numerous occasions to Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, as well as Moscow. This provided me with firsthand observations of the way the KGB and MVD operated. Once on a tour in Tallinn, Estonia, my men and I were warned that some individuals had approached the staff of the government hotel with questions about us. That evening we were taken for dinner at the Viru Hotel. Since we had an early start the next morning, I left two of my men, Mickey and Anders, in the restaurant and returned to the hotel to pack.

When my two cohorts left a couple of hours later, they were ambushed by 10 Russian mafia. They thought we weren't armed because no holsters were visible when we had taken our jackets off in the restaurant. When the thugs made their move, the Russian police and hotel security turned around and walked out, leaving Mickey and Anders on their own. They drew their weapons as the Mafia came for them, overcoming the language barrier thanks to Mr. Smith & Wesson and Mr. Glock, who were well hidden. In a short spate of time the mafia looked like pilgrims, first on their knees and then on their bellies. This was the first of three meetings our teams would have with the mafia. On this occasion no shots were fired, but on subsequent occasions the score would be IBA 4, Mafia 0.

Various Baltic States antiterrorist teams being trained by Jim Shortt before and after independence. Photos courtesy of Jim Shortt


I have mused since that the attacks were simply bad luck for the mafia picking on armed tourists. Senior Baltic interior ministries' personnel have told me that that wasn't the case. IBA was the target, and the operations were sanctioned by the KGB in Minsk, where the KGB moved all its Baltic operations after the failed coup and where they still target the Baltic States,

In January 1991, an attempted coup took place in the Baltic

States. Two airborne divisions specifically targeted on the Baltic States, 7th Guards Airborne with its headquarters at Kaunas in Lithuania (supported by the Spetsnaz brigade at Mariinogorko) and 76th Guards Airborne at Pskov (supported by the Spetsnaz NCO training brigade at Pechory). The Spetsnaz units were tasked with seizing important buildings such as government offices, the president's palace, and TV and radio stations. The commander of the 7th Guards Airborne, Col. Vladimir Federenko, had some sympathy for the nationalists. He realized that his officers and men were being used in a political game. (Furthermore, conditions for the military men had generally deteriorated. Their wives and children had were living in communal buildings with blankets hung on ropes for walls.) As tension with the nationalists governments increased, food for the troops-traditionally supplied by the civil administration of the republicsbecame short. Moscow deliberately created tensions in the lives of the Soviet military personnel and zampolits directed the anger at the nationalists. When Baltic youths refused to accept conscription into the Soviet forces, the paras were sent in with military police units to hunt them down.

The situation escalated when a series of mysterious bombs started to explode in Latvia, targeting a statue of Lenin, Communist party headquarters, KGB headquarters, a military hospital, and the military institute. The Latvian police arrested a young Russian, but the explosions continued-the work of

Interfront assisted by the republic's KGB Alpha team. After the success of the Alpha project in Moscow, it was decided to set up

Alpha teams in KGB headquarters in every republic, since the country was too vast for just one team to be able to respond, especially if there was more than one mission assigned. The teams, comprised of 12 to 15 men, trained in Moscow and by 1990 existed in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius.

On 12 January-while the world was busy watching the

Middle East, as it had been in 1956 when the Soviets attacked Hungary-the 7th and 76th Guards Airborne moved on the Baltic States. At the top of the list was Lithuania. The 7th Guards moved in and occupied the OMON headquarters in Vilnius and then attacked the TV station. BMD-1 and BMD-2 tanks crushed unarmed demonstrators beneath their tracks as soldiers fired into the demonstrators. But when the paratroopers, sickened by the slaughter, held back, KGB Alpha personnel based in Vilnius and dressed in VDV uniforms led the final assault. The attack and its brutality were recorded on video and shown on television screens throughout the world.

Members of the Lithuanian-based OMON search some civilians during the recent crisis in the Baltic States. Photo courtesy of Novosti Information Agency

Spetsnaz from Mariinogorko made a half-hearted attempt to seize the Journalists' Union building and the telephone exchange, firing live rounds above the heads of the crowd and at one point fixing bayonets to get through them. Eventually the 50-man unit retreated, leaving the paras to confront the crowd. At Lithuanian Defense Forces headquarters, KGB Alpha team members stormed the building, using stun and smoke grenades. The bodyguard team for President Landsbergis barricaded the parliament building; issued weapons, ammunition, and gas respirators; and awaited an assault. The inner protection core was made up of Lithuanian IBA members who a month before had come to Tallinn for training. Now in body armor, they watched, ate, and slept with their AKS-74s always at hand as they shadowed Landsbergis' every move.

On 15 January, under pressure from the rest of the world,

Gorbachev tried to rein in the Alpha teams, much to the dismay of the conspirators in Moscow. The next day, OMON forces based at Vecmilgravis Bridge in Riga opened fire on a passing car, killing the driver for no apparent reason. This senseless murder heightened tensions. The Riga OMON, assisted by Soviet troops, seized the Latvian police academy. They then moved to the Latvian Interior Ministry with BTR-70 ARCs and tried to ram blockading vehicles unsuccessfully. The Latvian Interfront declared itself a "National Salvation Committee" and the new government of the

(Parte 5 de 8)