A training unit with the mission of producing combat divers and soldiers, with a mission similar to that of the US Navy SEALS, Ukraine’s 73rd Naval Center of Special Operations has morphed over the course of the war to a small boat, amphibious raiding unit often operating behind Russian lines in the Dnipro River delta.

 Probably numbering no more than a few dozen men, the 73rd won’t be at the forefront of any offensive in the southern sector because, by many accounts, they are already there. Riding in Zodiac-style motor boats, the 73rd has been credited, through Ukrainian military published videos, of crossing the Dnipro into Russia-held territory on the left bank to reconnoiter and raid, as well as doing the same thing on the Kinburn Spit, across open sea, south of the Ukraine-held port of Mykolaiv.

Combat swimmer from 73rd Naval Center of Special Operations signals high morale to a cameraman during training. Official Ukraine Defense Ministry photograph

A highly-secretive unit the 73rd has, perhaps inevitably because of its commando reputation, become a favorite subject of Ukrainian military media, typically portrayed as masked frogmen carrying assault rifles. They are widely reported to have trained for years, prior to the war, with NATO special operations units from the US, Poland and Lithuania among others.


Almost certainly, in preparation for the offensive, teams from the 73rd have already studied ground to the south of Kherson and Mykolaiv to check its suitability for a larger amphibious assault. Were a larger landing to take place, the 73rd would doubtless be on the ground ahead of the assault – if they are not there already.

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If the AFU keeps to conventional tactics and makes its main attack wholly on the ground, then the 73rd could be used as a diversionary force, by staging cross-water raids, distracting from that main effort. Russian military observers have repeatedly pointed to the vulnerability to amphibious raider attack of Russian supply lines running south to Crimea but, Ukraine’s military leadership has, historically, preferred to use precision-guided munitions, rather than commandoes, to hit targets such targets.


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