Kaskad the military unit where the Russian elite goes quotplay

Kaskad: the military unit where the Russian elite goes "play war" in Ukraine

“Burning hearts. nerves of steel”. These are the characteristics attributed to the soldiers of the Kaskad squad, if the Telegram channel of this special unit is to be believed. It’s full of videos of Russian drones bombing Ukraine on heavy metal backgrounds and portraits of these “fighters”, with their hair licked out and decked out in advanced equipment.

“Burning hearts. nerves of steel The will to defeat Nazism,” says the Kaskad unit’s Telegram channel. © Screenshot France 24 / Kaskad / Telegram

“When the motherland called, the cadets without hesitation took up arms and rose to defend their homeland,” reads one of the captions accompanying the snaps. A lovely text that makes it clear that the courageous young men featured in the photos previously studied at Moscow University of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and are destined for a bright future.

But according to Jeff Hawn, a Russian military expert and member of the American think tank New Lines Institute, Kaskad’s fighters are not as brave as they make out. “As far as we know, the unit was never within a 50-mile radius of the fighting,” he says.

Show that there is no such thing as a free pass

Kaskad was founded in October 2022 by Dmitri Sablin, a member of the ruling United Russia party and former Duma deputy, according to Le Figaro, citing multiple testimonies and the influential Russian blog channel Telegram VchK-OGPU. According to Jeff Hawn, the unit was formed in response to President Vladimir Putin’s decision to declare the “partial mobilization” of the 300,000 Russian Army reservists called up and sent to fight in Ukraine.

Based in the illegally annexed Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, the group is equipped and funded by the Russian Defense Ministry, according to Le Figaro.

With the creation of this elite unit, which should have a hundred members, the Kremlin wanted to show that nobody – not even the country’s politicians – enjoys privileges that exempt them from military service. “Kaskad is part of a larger effort to show that Russian parliamentarians and their families are actively participating in the war and fulfilling their patriotic duty,” decodes Jeff Hawn.

Several Russian lawmakers and figures, including Dmitry Sablin’s own son, have since served in this unit.

Non-combat photo shoots

But while the battalion tries to portray itself as a real combat group, its critics say it’s more of a “detachment of cronies, including deputies and their children.” “Everyone wants to pretend to be a war veteran, but they don’t want to go to the front,” VKCh-OGPU explains, according to the Daily Telegraph.

“Kaskad’s fighters look to the future with confidence. In fact, they are deeply convinced of the victory over fascism in Donbass.” The numerous portraits of fighters published on the unit’s Telegram channel were all created against an identical background. © Screenshot France 24 / Kaskad / Telegram

The “dangers” Kaskad members face are virtually non-existent, Jeff Hawn points out, noting that their contribution to the war effort has been limited to photo ops for the benefit of Kremlin propaganda.

The Daily Telegraph publishes several photos of these fighters preparing drones or even examining computer screens “from comfortable bunkers”.

“They attend for less than a month, take photos, post them, and then go home,” Jeff Hawn continues. “Meanwhile, hundreds of Russian soldiers are dying in the Bachmout mud.”

“Increase your chances of being elected”

With the upcoming Russian regional elections on September 10, the Kaskad entity can also serve as a stepping stone to boost the election campaign of certain Russian parliamentarians.

In a column for the American think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Russian journalist Andrey Pertsev explains that the war in Ukraine and the title of veteran have become a “career advancement” for Russian politicians.

“The smartest will be able to appropriate the ‘veteran’ label that they earned by traveling to the front for a photo session,” he writes, noting that trips by Russian politicians to occupied Ukraine are already increasing.

Duma member Oleg Golikov is one of those who temporarily gave up administrative duties to “fight” for their fatherland by joining Kaskad. According to Le Figaro, he recently completed two three-month deployments with the unit and proudly declared, “I’m on the front lines defending our homeland.”

“We flew 50 to 70 km over enemy lines to see where the guns that were bombarding our positions were and to direct our artillery,” he tells the business daily Vedomosti, pointing out that his unit has specialized in the use of drones.

According to the same media, in April some 56 members of the Duma and Russian regional assemblies – who do not benefit from the derogation if they can be mobilized – were present in different units on the front lines. So far, three local parliamentarians have died in the fighting.

This text was taken from the English. The original article can be found here.