MVD National Guard Security Syria

The Curious Case of Daniil Martynov

On 1 February, 2017, Russian news agencies reported that Daniil Martynov has been appointed Deputy Head of the National Guard (Rosgvardiya) for the Chechen Republic. His appointment and profile shed some light on idiosyncrasies and overlaps of defence and security apparatuses in modern day Russia.

One upon a time, Daniil Martynov served as a Major in Russia’s premier counter-terrorist unit of Federal State Security(FSB), known as Alfa – Russian equivalent of the USA’s secretive Delta Force unit. Martynov was attached to FSB’s prestigious Centre for Special Operations(CSN), near Moscow, until year 2005. While with Alfa, he did a number of stints in Chechnya, during and post the Second Chechen War and has two medals to show for it. By all accounts Daniil was and still is an exceptional professional. One document indicates that he commanded an Alfa unit whilst with the CSN.

Post 2005 Martynov – still an FSB officer – was entrusted with close protection of then and current Chechen president and strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. It is worth noting, that a number of FSB’s Alpha officers found themselves in this role, during what was very violent period for Chechnya, when different factions were vying for power and with insurgency still ongoing. It was during this time that, according to Ramzan, two men bonded. Nowadays, both Martynov and Kadyrov refer to each other as “close friends”.

Apparently, Martynov’s FSB contract for close protection post ended in September 2013. Then, rather bizarrely, the official request for his transfer from the FSB came from now dissolved Spetsstroy or Russian Federal Agency for Special Construction. Officially, Martynov became the Chechen President’s aide on law enforcement issues. At the time, International Training Center for Special Forces(ITCSF) was being built in Chechnya and Martynov was to be its patron. This could somewhat explain the Spetsstroy transfer request. Conveniently situated in Russia’s restive Caucasus, the centre is being touted as training and tactics exchange institution with an international dimension. According to Kadyrov, ten U.S. “contractors” applied to join the ITCSF. Still, ITCSF’s primary mission is for Kadyrov’s spetsnazovtsii to hone their skills under the watchful eye of their coveted instructor – Major Martynov. By many accounts, this is Chechen strongman’s dream come true.

Considering Ramzan’s extravagant ways and deep pockets, surely, there must have been a nice financial incentive for Martynov to leave the FSB. But there is probably more to it than that. It is unlikely that Daniil would have renegaded from his powerful employer. Instead, he probably had FSB’s full blessing and more. Despite Martynov’s official posting, considering his age, prior experience and status in Alfa, it would seem plausible that he is in some kind of active reserve.

Kadyrov’s men that Martynov trained are often seen posing and training with high-altitude military parachuting gear – Arbalet-2s on their backs, oxygen masks, and other accompanying gadgetry. Now part of Rosgvardiya, prior to mid-2016 those men were known as Special Rapid Response Team(SOBR) Terek and were, officially at least, subordinated to Ministry of Internal Affairs(MVD) of the Russian Federation. It seems pretty obvious that Kadyrov’s men are trained and equipped for bigger things then what their Rosgvardiya role would stipulate.

Parachuting into Arctic followed by a 50-km trek at -50’C, seems excessive for an ex-MVD SOBR, now Rosgvardiya, pedigree spetsnaz unit, and more akin to Russia’s top-tier Special Operations Forces(SSO). As far back as September 2013, Russian Moskovskij Komsomolets run a story titled Kadyrov’s Alfa created for the war in Syria. Furthermore, one year ago, Russia’s official state TV run a report about Chechen SOBR Terek spetsnaz unit. In it, a special correspondent Aleksandr Rogatkin talks about infiltration of Islamic State(IS) in Syria and Iraq by the Chechen operatives who were schooled at the ITCSF. Even Ramzan himself is seen boasting about this in the same report. (Below in Russian)

Those claims should be taken with a grain of salt. But if true, it would mean that the National Guard – or at least its Chechen branch – is not operationally confined to Russian state borders. This, in turn, illustrates the fuzzy legal framework that Russian spetsnaz operates in.

Considering that the Chechen “warrior spirit” is well documented, is Martynov creating some sort of modern day Russian Sparta in Chechnya? Probably not. But it seems unlikely the Kremlin would have approved of such capable unit and transfer of expertise from Martynov to simply please and appease Ramzan Kadyrov.

Main Image: Daniil Martynov on the phone to Ramzan Kadyrov, Arctic, 29 March, 2016.
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