A Russian drone unit is recruiting members of the Kremlin elite so they can ‘sidestep’ military service on the front, UK intel says

A special Russian military unit is recruiting Russian elites, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

According to the department, the unit, called “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.”

The unit is primarily involved in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations far from the front lines in Ukraine, likely allowing 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.

Sitting in the rear and drinking tea


Ukrainian military personnel display a downed Russian drone during a press conference.

Ukrainian military personnel display a downed Russian drone during a press conference.

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images



Some analysts believe Russian officials see the unit as a way to exploit publicity opportunities.

“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,” Ruslan Leviev, a military analyst with the Conflict Intelligence Team, told The Guardian.

“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, per the MoD.

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.

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