In 2016, the formation of a new type of troops, the Special Operations Forces, began as part of the Ukrainian armed forces. In accordance with the adopted plans, by the end of 2020, the MTR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine had to acquire the final form and structure, as well as achieve full combat and operational readiness. As follows from the available data, such problems have been generally solved.
Goals and structure
According to the “Law on Defense”, the MTR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine must solve a number of basic tasks in the field of combat operations, reconnaissance and information activities. Subdivisions of this structure are responsible for “modern warfare”, anti-terrorist operations, military reconnaissance, search and evacuation of victims or the capture of “tongues”. Also, the MTR must create agent networks, conduct information and psychological operations, train personnel of friendly armies and even prepare coups in third countries.
The formation of the SSO was carried out through the creation of new units and subunits, as well as through the transfer of existing ones from the composition of other types of troops. The total number of the MTR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine after all the transformations is approx. 15 thousand people
The MTR Command is deployed in Kiev. The subordinate structure of the MTR includes three main types of units. These are special purpose units (SPN), centers of information and psychological operations (the notorious IPSO) and various support units – training, liaison, etc.
Several Ukrainian military and civilian universities are involved in training personnel for the SSO in various specialties. The curriculum and training process is facilitated by the US military. They are represented by specialists of the 4th group of information support operations.
The execution of operational and combat missions in the MTR is assigned to the special forces units. There are four such parts known. The 140th Special Forces Center and the 8th Separate Special Forces Regiment are deployed in the city of Khmelnitsky (the territory of the OK “West”). In the area of responsibility of OK “Yug” there are the 3rd separate special operations regiment (Kropyvnytskyi) and the 73rd Naval Special Operations Center (Odessa).
The 3rd and 8th separate regiments include three special forces, management, headquarters and support units. The 73rd Naval Center is distinguished by a more complex structure, in which there are land, landing and naval units. Unlike other units, the main task of the 73rd center is to carry out sabotage and other similar operations.
The special forces units are armed with a variety of weapons and equipment of Soviet, Ukrainian and foreign production. In this case, we are talking only about small arms of different classes and armored vehicles. The combat swimmers have at their disposal weapons for underwater shooting and means of transportation under water.
Information and psychological operations
Of all the structures of the MTR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the most famous are the centers of the IPCO. Their task is to monitor the social and political situation in neighboring countries, prepare analytical documents, etc. The centers also prepare and conduct hacker attacks on key military and civilian targets of a potential enemy. There is information about holding such events together with foreign colleagues.
At the same time, the IPSO centers are better known for their activities in the socio-political direction. They monitor and suppress alternative points of view in Ukraine itself, and also organize information and psychological operations in other countries. Advocacy materials are distributed through all available channels, from print to social media bots.
It is known about four operating IPSO centers. The 72nd main center is working near Kiev, which carries out general management of the entire structure. In the OK “North” zone in the settlement Guiva operates the 16th IPCO Center. The 74th center of OK “West” is deployed in Lvov. The 86th center is located in Odessa (OK “Yug”).
According to known data, the MTR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine receive the greatest assistance from foreign colleagues precisely in the context of the development of the IPSO centers. So, in the 72nd main center, a group of specialists from the 77th brigade of the British information forces has been constantly working since 2018. Also, specialists from other NATO countries with experience in information and psychological operations are involved in the assistance of the centers.
According to the known data, the IPCO centers have a similar composition. In addition to leadership, they include an analytical department and an observation and special actions department. There are also departments in charge of propaganda in print and on the Internet. Also, each center has subdivisions of support for continuous work.
By now, the MTR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have acquired the required form, gained the necessary strength and received all the basic capabilities. At the same time, the Ukrainian command is not going to stop there and plans to develop the MTR in different ways. Processes of this kind will be associated mainly with plans to join NATO.
In the coming years, until 2025, it is planned to abandon weapons, equipment and other materiel built according to the standards of the USSR / Russia. A full transition to NATO standards is planned. Similar changes await the operational and combat training of units. Fighters and other specialists of the MTR in the future will be trained according to NATO methods. The preparation of the MTR combat manual is continuing, which will also take into account the requirements of NATO.
In recent years, MTR units have repeatedly participated in international exercises. In the future, such cooperation will be expanded. The Ukrainian command wants to include its units in the NATO rapid reaction force, which will strengthen cooperation with this organization, and will also make it possible to count on various kinds of foreign assistance.
Units of the Special Forces of the MTR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are used in the Donbass to carry out certain operations against the self-proclaimed republics. This practice will continue in the future. In addition, certain aggressive actions against other neighboring countries cannot be ruled out. The same applies to IPSO centers. They have already launched an active activity in information networks, and it is unlikely that it will decline.
In just a few years, Ukraine has managed to form and bring to full service a new branch of the armed forces with broad capabilities, incl. fundamentally new. It is easy to see that foreign friendly countries, primarily the United States, made a decisive contribution to these processes. They shared their experience in organizing the Special Operations Forces and continue to provide support in all directions.
The results of the activities of the new service arm are not yet fully clear. Parts of the Special Forces exist and regularly participate in training activities, incl. international. In addition, they were involved in combat work in the Donbass. There is information about the conduct of reconnaissance and sabotage operations, etc. However, the involvement of the MTR did not help the Armed Forces of Ukraine change the situation in the region and regain control over the seceded territories.
The activities of the centers of information and psychological operations, for obvious reasons, are more visible. Unreliable “stuffing” on various topics, beneficial to the Kiev authorities, occurs regularly. In addition, on social networks and other services with open comments, there is an increased activity of suspicious accounts with the same socio-political position. Attempts of hacker attacks are recorded.
The specifics of the current political course of Ukraine suggests that the newly created Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces are viewed as a multipurpose tool for aggressive actions against third countries. This means that nearby states need to track Ukrainian activity and take measures to ensure their security. Perhaps the MTR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine does not pose a particular threat to the militarily developed countries, but they must be considered as a potential threat that requires attention.