Circling the Lion's Den

Police spetsnaz reforms 2011

In April 2011 the Interior Ministry announced some details of the reform of police spetsnaz units, known as the OMON and OMSN.

  • OMON: Otryad Militcii Osobogo Naznachenia — the police distinctive purpose unit, mostly private soldiers and sergeants.
  • OMSN: Otryad Militcii Specialnogo Naznazchenia — the police special purpose unit, officers.

The difference between them is merely a hang-over from a former time, successfully overcome by the leadership of the Interior Ministry. In the 1990s the OMON came under the public security police, and the SOBR (OMSN’s predecessors) were understood as being primarily concerned with organized crime and terrorism, in which sense they amounted to something approximating a version of the FSB Alfa troops. But now the OMSN also have a new role: to participate in events aimed to intercept the activities of extremist criminals. Today the OMON and OMSN are trained jointly in crowd dispersal techniques.

Vladimir Gorshukov, the Chief of the Center for the operative management of the Interior Ministry's special divisions, told Interfax agency on April 11, 2011 that the OMON units are to be renamed Distinctive Purpose Teams, while OMSN will become Special Purpose Teams.

To coordinate police spetsnaz units, a new Office to oversee of the activities of the special forces and the air force was established within the Interior Ministry's central apparatus (the Interior Ministry's air forces was created in December 2003, with nine special purpose aviation sections in different regions of the country). It was said that special police forces will receive their own aircraft, "basically manoeuvrable helicopters".

Also, a Special Purpose Center for Rapid Deployment Forces was set up under the Interior Ministry. It was announced that such Special Purpose Centers for Rapid Deployment forces will be also created in Russian regions, to include regional OMON and OMSN units. In essence, all police spetsnaz units will be brought together under the joint command of the Interior Ministry.


In 2003, according to Interior Ministry data, Russia had 98 spetsnaz police divisions. In 2007, the deputy minister of the Ministry of the Interior, Mikhail Sukhodolsky said in an interview with Gazeta that there were already 121 operational OMON units across the country, that is 23 more than they had four years previously. According to a Ministry of the Interior press release, these units comprise 20,000 men. By 2007 there were another 87 special police divisions comprising over 5,200 men. Today there are over 208 spetsnaz divisions comprising 25.2 thousand well educated, well trained fighters.

Agentura.Ru, April 30, 2011