Sunday, 5 October 2014

Captured Russian spy facility reveals the extent of Russian aid to the Assad regime

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

On the 5th of October 2014, the Free Syrian Army captured the highly secretive, joint, Russian-Syrian Центр С - المركز س 'Center C or Center S' SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) facility (logo on top) operated by the Russian Osnaz GRU radio electronic intelligence agency (logo on the right) and the Syrian intelligence agencies (logo on the left).

Situated close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the town of al-Harra, the facility appears to have been of vital importance for the Syrian government for its responsibility to record and decrypt radio communications from every rebel group operating inside Syria, making it likely the Russian-gathered information at this facility was at least partially responsible for the series of killings of rebel leaders by airstrikes.

Translation from 3:08; ''A directive issued by the surveillance office on May 31 to eavesdrop and record all radio communications of the terrorist groups, directive signed by brigadier-general Nazir Fuddah, commander of the first center''

The facility was recently upgraded and expanded by Russia to provide Syria and Iran with situational awareness of the Middle East. After the upgrade, which took from January to mid-February, it reportedly covered the whole of Israel and Jordan and even a part of Saudi Arabia. [1] According to the report, the upgrade was carried after Iran voiced its concern that the facility's focus on the Syrian Civil War hampered espionage efforts on Israel. New equipment and additional personnel was thus added to the base. But as only static and worn out looking sensors were captured [2] [3], it is believed that some of the more modern equipment depicted on various photos inside the complex was evecuated days or weeks before the base's capture.

The departure of the Russians from Center S is described in an article written for The Daily Beast;

''Firas Al Hawrani, the official spokesman for the FSA in southern Syria, told The Daily Beast Monday that FSA forces had seen about 15 Russian personnel operating in the Al Harah area before the FSA took the facility, but they left before the area fell out of regime control. “The Russians who were at the Al Harah mountain, the regime took them to Damascus by plane two weeks ago,” he said.''

The Russian operator of this facility was the Osnaz GRU, responsible for radio electronic intelligence within Russia's Armed Forces. Although not much is known about this unit, its logos can be seen below. "Части особого назначения" - Osnaz GRU and "Военная радиоэлектронная разведка" - Military Radio Electronic Intelligence.

Various photos on the wall inside the captured facility once again emphasise the Russian involvement in the Middle East, showing even a map of Israeli Defence Forces bases and units. Other photos detail Russian personnel working at and running the center, as well as highlight a visit by Kudelina L.K., Counselor to the Minister of Defence of Russian Federation.

''Совместная обработка информации российскими и сирийскими офицерами'' and ''معالجة مشتركة للمعلومات بين الضباط السوريين والروس'' - Joint processing of information by Russian and Syrian officers.

''Начальники "Центра-С" - Chiefs of Center C. The six lines beneath reveal the ranks of the Russian chiefs, their names and dates when they commanded the Center. All six seem to have rank of Полковник - 'Colonel'. Surnames are not readable.

''Визит советника МО РФ Куделиной Л.И. в Центр'' and ''زيارة مستشار وزارة الدفاع الروسية كوديلني لي للمركز'' - Counselor to the Minister of Defence of Russian Federation Kudelina L.I. visiting the Center. 'Kudelina L.I.' is likely an error as the name should be 'Kudelina L.K'.

''Рабочий визит начальника ГУ МВС ВС РФ'' - Visit by the Chief of the Main Directorate of International Military Cooperation of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation.

''Объекты и источники северного военного округа ВС Израиля'' - Bases and sources of Northern Military District of Israeli Armed Forces. [Author's note: sources indicates sources of radio signals.]

"Карта радиоэлектронной обстановки" - Radio electronic situation map.

As it turns out, Center S isn't the only Russian spy facility in Syria. While the existence of a second facility, Center S-2, was quickly confirmed by a badge commemorating the ten year anniversary of this base, it now appears there's a third facility around.

A high resolution photo of one of the maps in the operations room of Center-S reveals the location of three marked places inside Syrian held territory, connected by double lines. Oddly enough, a secondary set of lines continues to Cyprus through Lebanon and even to Amman, Jordan. It is currently unknown what these lines are supposed to signify.

Center S, located near al-Hara, can be seen in middle, which leaves the Northern and Southern bases unaccounted for. As other Syrian military bases are not marked on the map, it suggests only spy facilities are shown.

The one to the North brings us to a hill near Jaba.

While the one to the South brings us to another hill, near the town of Nawa.

Interestingly, all three facilities are based on and (presumably) in hills, otherwise a rare sight in southwest Syria. As Center S and S-2 account for two of these bases, this leaves a third possible candidate, (likely named Center S-1 or Center S-3), proving Russian involvement in espionage activities in Israel to be significantly larger than originally thought. No reports are available on the status of the other two bases, but it is presumed both are still being operated by the Russian Osnaz.

An ex-SAA conscript now residing in Turkey and speaking on the basis of anonymity told Oryx Blog he frequently visited the base as part of his conscription in 2006 and 2007 and not only saw Russians there, but also Iranians. He stated that the base housed Iranian equipment, which was regularly checked and maintained by Iranian personnel usually staying there for around ten days.

He goes on that Russian experts used to visit the facility every three or six months, but does not recall if these were replacements for other Russian experts working there or just personnel providing maintenance for the equipment at the base.

This new information shows the signifance of the joint spy effort on Israel (and now on rebels) in the light of escalating tensions in the Middle East. As the Syrian Civil War is once again pushed further from the prospect of a possible ceasefire with the rise of the Islamic State, both Iran and Russia appear to be consolidating their stakes in the Assad regime.


[1] ''Russia upgrades radar station in Syria to aid Iran''

Recommended Articles:

Russian Orlan-10 and Eleron-3SV drones take to Syria's skies


  1. 'Объекты и источники северного
    военного округа ВС Израиля'' Should be stations/bases not "Objects"

  2. Antenna on the second photo from the bottom (picture that shaded by an arm of old man) - looks like

  3. @anonymous 6 oct 2014 10:03 : Anyone half aware of what is happening in Syria, since Assad sr & jr have been in power, knows that the main terrorists in Syria are the Bashir Assad regime, followed far back by the ISIS/IS/Daesh(your choice of names).
    The difference between the regime and ISIS is essentially the regime tries to hide its' terrorism from the rest of the world, and the ISIS use it as a recruiting tool. They both use terrorism to lessen resistance to their control.
    As for any government opposed to Assad deliberately supporting the ISIS, no reputable observer has made such claims. True, in the case of Qatar, some government funds landed with the ISIS, but Qatar's indirect way of funding rebels was almost funding by chance. The Saudis have deliberately avoided funding jihadist groups. Their funds have gone to various FSA groups, and the Authenticity and Development Front, a well trained and disciplined moderate group with a slight islamic slant. This is not by accident. The Saudis have been fighting al-Qaida longer than the US, and they even ban relatively moderate groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

    As for Turkey, they are reluctant to fight the Assad regime alone, much like the US with its' coalition against the ISIS. They want a buffer zone for Syrians along their border, a no-fly zone in northern Syrian, and a commitment to fight the Assad regime, before joining the coalition against the ISIS.
    Turkey also has a fixation with armed kurds on it's border, due to the kurdish rebellion in their country, caused by denying basic rights to Turkish kurds.
    even though Syrian kurds represent no threat to Turkey. Turkey recently made 3 demands to actively support Syrian kurds against the ISIS : 1) They fight the Assad regime (They do already according to their means. But they need heavy arms to fight the regime in Hasaka. They are now in a formal alliance with the FSA.) 2) They present no threat to Turkey (It has never been otherwise.) 3) They give up autonomy. (Really up to the kurds and other syrians, the PYD proposes a federal system for all syrians. Which is appropriate considering the ethnic and linguistic diversity of Syria.)

    BTW, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the US are all saints compared to both the ISIS and the Syrian regime. It is the Assad regime that has most strongly supported the ISIS, both by buying oil from them, and not attacking them (and often attacking rebel groups in proximity) before the last month or two.

    1. Dude your so full of shit.

      Yes America has the illusion of freedom but you know what fuck Al assad and ISIS, Alqueda. And leave Israel alone you communist terrorist loving (Hamas, Hezbollah, post 1979 Iranian regime) piece of shit.

  4. @"Anonymous6 October 2014 08:25" If Kolchuga systems works by triangulation, would there need to be another at another site nearby? That is, might the Center S-2 that is mentioned in fact be a necessary component for the Kolchuga framework to work? If so, what might be its maximum distance from Center S[-1], optimized for Israel-sourced signals? Within that scope is where S-2 must be...