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National Security News

Russia Ukraine War

Sons of Russian Oligarchs are serving in a special drone unit in Ukraine “out of harm’s way”.

Insignia of Russian drone unit Bars Kaskad – source MOD

A Russian drone regiment is recruiting members of the Kremlin elite so they can ‘sidestep’ military service on the front, according to the British government.
The unit called “Bars Kaskad” is recruiting Russian elites, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
Bars Kaskad was created by the Russian State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, and it contains an “unusually high” number of pro-Putin United Russia Party members and sons of Kremlin elites — “up to 10 in total”, according to the MoD.
The unit is primarily involved in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations far from the front lines in Ukraine.
The MoD said that being a member of the unit would allow Russian VIPs to “sidestep usual military service requirements with guaranteed safety,” the MoD said.
Members of the squadron are also thought to be provided with bodyguards.
Some analysts believe Russian officials see the unit as a way to exploit publicity opportunities.
Ruslan Leviev, a military analyst with the Conflict Intelligence Team, said: “Kaskad is specially created for all kinds of famous people and officials who are looking to publicly demonstrate that they have gone to war and stood up for their country.
“You sit somewhere in the rear, drink tea, come back with a medal and titles, and go on to build your political career as a participant in the war,” he added.
The unit, which has been active since around October 2022, rose to prominence in April after it emerged that the husband of Russian influencer Yelena Blinovskaya had enlisted to try to prevent her from going to prison on tax evasion charges.
Alexei Blinovsky was pictured serving with Bars Kaskad on April 16.
While thousands of Russian convicts have joined Vladimir Putin’s forces in a bid to atone for their crimes and secure their freedom, Blinovsky’s case is thought to be the first time someone enlisted in the war to help a family member avoid prison.
Earlier this month, National Security News reported that the Russian Army has lost 450,000 soldiers and 3,000 tanks during the two year war in Ukraine, according to the MoD.
The staggering casualty figures mean that President Vladimir Putin has lost an average of 560 troops a day since Russia’s special military operation began two years ago.
The losses are 100,000 more than the previous UK estimate shared in February by Britain’s Defence Intelligence and equate to Russia losing 1,300 troops a day in just the last two months.
The casualty figures do not include mercenary groups like Wagner who lost thousands of fighters in “human wave” assaults in the battle of Bakhmut last year.
In December the MoD said 20,000 of Wagner’s soldiers had been killed and another 40,000 had been injured in a single month.
The latest figures also do not account for the “tens of thousands” of soldiers who have deserted Putin’s armed forces, according to the MoD.

Sean Rayment is the Defence and Security Editor for National Security News. He is also a best selling author, broadcaster and award-winning defence and security journalist. He has also previously served as an officer in Parachute Regiment Officer. He has reported from war zones around the world including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Africa, and Northern Ireland and is one of the few British journalists to twice visit the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He has written for virtually all British national newspapers and specialises in security, intelligence, and defence reporting, with a specific interest in mental health issues in the military community. Sean is also the author of Bomb Hunters and Tales from the Special Forces Club. He also co-wrote the international bestselling Painting the Sand with Kim Hughes GC and Endurance with former SAS operator Louis Rudd.