Russia » Politics

Alpha Russian special service unit is as strong as ever

30 years ago, famous special forces unit Alpha was established.
One of first Alpha members, colonel of KGB-FSB in reserve, President of the Association of Alpha veterans, deputy of Moscow State Duma Sergey Goncharov said about special forces in Russian politics.

Special forces and Presidents

Reporter In what way did the USSR demise influence Alpha unit?

Sergey Goncharov For the 30 years of its history, Alpha group went through many transformations... Frankly, after the Soviet Union started breaking in 1985, the authorities tried hard to disintegrate Alpha group to weaken it. After the coup of 1991, when Alpha did not follow orders to kill the people defending the building of Russian Parliament from the coup plotters, Russian President issued the decree on making Alpha officers guard the President.

Please don’t ask what President. We had a dual power at that time. The Soviet Union was supposedly headed by Gorbachev, Russia was supposedly headed by Yeltsin. We started guarding them.  We created by units and guarded the “supposed presidents”.

Reporter Is this not a good job?

Sergey Goncharov This can be a good job for somebody. However, there is a difference between a commandos and a guard. Later we tried to explain Yeltsin that our job was not about carrying the boss’ umbrellas or carrying the dresses purchased by his wife, from the store to the car. This was not even a job for a guard, this was a porter’s job. Yeltsin was about to understand this, and we started being engaged in special operations again, but then the confrontation between Russian Parliament and President Yeltsin happened in October, 1993.

Reporter You followed the orders and arrested the leaders of the rebellious Russian Parliament.

Sergey Goncharov  Yes, but we did not shoot and killed nobody. Probably, Yeltsin disliked the way Alpha and Vympel special units carried out his orders, and Vympel was dissolved. The officers of this elitist unit were offered to go work for the police. Please understand me properly, I don’t want to say something bad about the police, but an elite unit officer would rather retire than join the police. I understand the feelings of the resigned 38 оfficers of Vympel unit who resigned. However, this unit continued operating under the name “Vega” due to Major-General Krugov who started working for Russian Interior Ministry. Today Vympel became as strong as it used to be, and it works with Alpha in the Center for Special Assignments of Russian Federal Security Service.

Reporter So, the times changed?

Sergey Goncharov Yes, for the better, in terms of both moral and finance.

Reporter Was it as in the US action movies: after the difficult assignment, the President comes to the plane’s ladder to meet his servicemen in person?

Sergey Goncharov Тhere were no such cases. But all leaders of the country, including the President, come to honor the Alpha officers who died in military operations. There was no such tradition under the Communist regime.

Special forces and business

Reporter The Association of Alpha veterans is involved in business. How are you doing in business?

Sergey Goncharov It was hard to start. We have no experience and connections of the people from the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Foreign Trade, or the other government officials. Ноwever, we gained some experience, and have been working in business for 11 years.

Reporter Is it true that guarding agencies are connected with criminals?

Sergey Goncharov As all Russian society, not more, not less. Our economy is connected with criminals, and I cannot say that we are clean under such conditions. However, we do not step over the limits set by today’s politicians, officials and law-enforcers.

Reporter What is easier, to guard VIP-persons or the stars of show business?

Sergey Goncharov
Previously, there was 9th Department in KGB whose officers were guarding the leaders of the Communist Party and other important figures. Today there is also a need to guard high-ranking officials, and we do this. However, we never guard show business stars as they are not good, they have no moral principles in dealing with people, whether they are their reporters, fans or bodyguards.

Special forces and Motherland

Reporter What do you think about the idea of cooperation of the special services of different countries in fighting terrorism and exchanging the relevant information?

Sergey Goncharov I cannot accept the US policy of double standards. There are two kinds of terrorism, and one must be eradicated with joint efforts, while another one should be supported by stupid resolutions of international entities whom we fund ourselves, to certain extent... I will never believe that the USA is eager to assist Russia to catch up with the US. Americans use all the countries of the world only to pursue America’s interests. Russia is not an exception for them. It is possible to exchange information, to cooperate, we should to fight terrorism with joint efforts. But we also should have our own firm position and do not change it.

Reporter Do you justify the assassination of Chechen terrorist Yandarbiev in Qatar?

Sergey Goncharov Today all the states having strong special services, fight their countries’ enemies by following the principle – terrorists must be killed whenever they are. I see nothing bad about it. Another issue is who really assassinated Yandarbiev.

Reporter Wasn’t he assassinated by Russian special services?

Sergey Goncharov No way they could work so awkwardly! If our guy had done this, no policemen would have caught them. Judging on the handwriting, US special services were involved in this. For them, Yandarbiev was “used materials”, while the USA detests Russian agent’s presence in Qatar. So, they got rid of everybody at a time. But these are just my ideas, I cannot say for sure. Let people analyze for themselves.

Reporter What would you wish to all Russian special service officers?

Sergey Goncharov To believe that Russia will get up from its knees and will be a great state

Interview and photo by Ilia Tarasov

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