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Does Russia have any elite snipers like Wali in Ukraine?

Units like Spetznaz GRU had been tasked with assassinating Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the beginning of the conflict.

A general view shows a residential area that was destroyed during shelling in central Kharkiv as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues.
Thomas PeterReuters

In the midst of war the media is always searching for moments and heroes for propaganda victories. Early hope for the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ is proof of this. In recent days, the name Wali has been across the news in the last week, a Canadian volunteer sniper who has joined up to defend Ukraine. People are wondering if Russia have a similar candidate.

Finding information on specific Russian soldiers is nigh impossible, but there are elements of the Russian special forces that undoubtedly include sniper units.

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What units with snipers does Russia have?

Early in the war much was made of daring airborne attacks on the Antonov Airport near Kyiv. Though the attack was eventually repulsed, it put on display some of Russia's special forces it has at its disposal. This attack was conducted by the 11th Guards Air Assault Brigade, before the war. The naming of 'guards' signifies them as a unit of high distinction and dates back through Russian history.

Another unit which is likely to be more well known in western consciousness are the Spetznaz GRU. This unit was formed in 1949, has has made up the bulk of Russian special forces deployment since 1990. Back in 2014, they were the 'little green men' who occupied Crimea without official badges or designation, and are highly regarded. The reason they could be known in the west is they feature prominently in video games; often a Russian faction in games like Call of Duty or Rainbow Six will have the naming and uniforms of Spetznaz units

At the outbreak of war in late-February, the Spetznaz were reported to have the specific mission of assassination the Ukrainian president. The Ukrainian interior ministry reported that they were aware of Russian infiltrations into Kyiv in an attempt to complete this task.

“According to our information, the enemy marked me as target No 1, my family as target No 2. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state. We have information that enemy sabotage groups have entered Kyiv," President Zelenskyy said at the time.

Fortunately, this mission has so far been a failure. Zelenskyy, for his part, remains in Kyiv.

Who is Wali?

Wali served in Afghanistan as a part of the Royal Canadian Infantry’s 22nd Regiment in Kandahar. His real name is unknown; Wali is a nom de guerre.

The news organization CBC reported that Wali had travelled to Ukraine through Poland to provide his support. In an interview with CBC he described the events of his journey saying that when he and three other fighters arrived they were greeted with "hugs, handshakes, flags and photos."

"They were so happy to have us" said Wali, adding that when he arrived and met the Ukrainian troops they became friends "right away."