URNA: A police tactical unit of the Czech Republic

Author: Eric Sof


URNA is a police tactical unit of the Czech police. Nowadays, the unit is considered one of the best units for this purpose in Europe. It represents the ultimate answer of the Czech Ministry of Internal Affairs against terrorism, organized crime, and other criminal activities.


The Czech Republic is the state formed on the disintegration of the former Czech Republic, which used to unite two national entities, Czechs and Slovakians. Right upon the independence being established, after a quiet separation between Czech and Slovakia, the Czech Republic began adjusting to the western capitalistic standard of life and thus approaching its secure safety structures to European standards.

However, as was the case with all former communist countries, adjusting to western standards had repercussions. Many criminal groups immediately spotted their great chance to take advantage of the new and young democracy. Together with powerful criminal Russian groups, the Czech Republic was swarmed with well-organized criminal organizations from Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, Poland, Greece, and Kosovo that fought for its territory and loot division.

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For the last ten years, the Czech Police have dealt with the Kosovo mafia, the best organized, most brutal, and dangerous drug and prostitution mafia, with approximately 10,000 members. That is why the Czech Republic has a unit for an immediate response, founded at the time of Czechoslovakia, named Útvar rychlého nasazení, better known in western circles under the abbreviation URNA.


At the request of the Socialistic Government and specific police forces, it was decided to form one police unit that would be exclusively made of specially selected, trained, and equipped men. This new body would be capable of successfully opposing any criminal threats, plane hijackings, kidnapping, and terrorist bombing attacks.

Such tasks were under the military forces’ jurisdiction, which wasn’t adequately prepared and trained for that mission. In August 1981, according to the Ministry’s decree 52/1980, the unit for an immediate response was formed as the essential component of the police force’s fight against all kinds of criminal activities.

Czech Republic URNA operators practicing hand-to-hand combat
Czech Republic URNA operators practicing hand-to-hand combat (Photo: XY)

The unit was named Direktorat, and it was settled under the “Sboru národní bezpečnosti SNB” command (National security Assembly). To complete it, police force staff was recruited from elite military units, too, especially from the paratroops. From 1981 to 1985, a longtime process of training started, and at the same time, the arming of the unit began.

Automatic pistols Vz.61 Skorpion cal. 7,65 Browning were supplied, then assault rifles Vz.58 7,62 mm and sniper rifles of the Soviet manufacture SVDN-1 Dragunov (Vz.63) 7,62×54 R mm, as well as the domestic modified sniper rifle Vz. 54 7,62,shotguns,grenade launchers RV-85 cl. 26,5 and various kinds of pistols.

The recognizable symbol of the unit was a red beret that the members of the military units brought to the unit. In the beginning, the unit was intended to perform most actions against riots and public manifestations, but soon significant changes happened. Firstly, in 1985 the unit changed its name to “Odbor zvláštního určení,” meaning department for special interventions, and it was put under the command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

However, these changes negatively reflected on the unit since Communist Czech Government then used it for stopping the protests and manifestations led by numerous anti-government organizations in which a big number of civilians took part; this made the unit act against them using the cruelest methods, especially in the period between 1988 and 1989.

URNA, after a coup in 1989

After the coup in 1989, when the communist party was removed from power, sudden changes occurred, and the unit entered a new phase of its development, leading to a new philosophy.

Thus, the focus was on the training for performing interventions in people and vehicle kidnapping cases, especially against dangerous offenders and organized criminal groups. The department, in the same year, changed its name to “Jednotka rychlého zásahu Federální policejní služby – JRZ FPS,” meaning unit for immediate interventions of Federal Police Forces. This led to the alteration of the unit’s symbol, so in November 1989, the red beret was replaced by a dark green one.

URNA Czech Special Police Unit
URNA Czech Special Police Unit (Photo: XY)

Change in the state’s political orientation enabled unit JRZ, in February 1990, to regain the responsibility that motivated its formation. In that same year, they participated in an action of freeing hostages. Opening the Republic to the world simultaneously brought changes in the mentality of an approach in the training of unit members so that officers of the unit began to get introduced to the activities of their foreign colleagues.

They started to travel more abroad, and significant financial resources were invested in purchasing modern western equipment. In 1990 the name of the unit was also changed to Útvar rychlého nasazení- URNA (Unit for immediate interventions) of the Czech Police Force, which is still in use.

Organization and tasks

The main missions are given to this specific police unit consist of performing charging actions that require specially trained men, equipped with sophisticated gear and arms, especially in high-risk situations that could involve civilians:

  • interventions against terrorist groups, kidnappers, air pirates.
  • Interventions against organized criminal groups and dangerous criminals.
  • Security and protection of the high government-political officials, both domestic and foreign, visit the Czech republic.
  • Securing Czech diplomatic offices worldwide.
  • Repelling prison mutinies.
  • helping citizens hit by natural disasters

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