The Russian military were likely learning to fly Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones in the summer of 2022 under the guise of the so-called Falconry competition at Russia’s Army Games, an investigation by Slidstvo.info and NashiGroshi.Lviv journalist teams has found.
In a report published on Jan. 4, the journalists said that Falconry (called “Sokolinaya Okhota” in Russian) is the name given to one of the disciplines of the so-called Army Games military competition, which Russia has been holding for the past eight years.
In 2022, the competition was held from Aug. 15 to 27 — allegedly at an airfield near the Iranian city of Isfahan, which is Iran’s largest military airfield and the country’s main maintenance and training center.
The Iranian mass media, however claimed that the tournament was actually held in another place — at an airfield near the city of Kashan. There is a secret airbase there, where, according to Israel, UAV operators are trained.
A month before the start of the Falconry competition, Russian delegations came to the airbase near Kashan at least twice, the journalists said.
Russia received the first batch of Iranian drones on Aug. 19 — while the Falconry competition was ongoing in Iran, U.S. newspaper the Washington Post reported on Aug. 29.
The investigators have identified by name four representatives of Russia who participated in the Falconry competition:
All four live in Kolomna and serve in the 924th State Center of Unmanned Aviation of the Ministry of Defense of Russia. The center trains specialists to work with drones and tests them before they are put into service.
The journalists assume that these Russian military personnel either launch kamikaze drones at Ukrainian civilian objects themselves, or direct the attacks.
The investigators managed to get in touch with Glukhov, who was spotted on a video by the Russian Ministry of Defense from Iran. He claimed that he was allegedly hearing about Iranian drones for the first time and “works in cryptocurrency.”
Spokesperson for the Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) Vadym Skibitskyi previously stated that, according to the HUR, Russia has used about 660 Iranian Shahed drones and is waiting for a new batch to arrive.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned on Jan. 2 that Russia is planning long-lasting attacks by Iranian kamikaze drones.
Since early October, Russia has launched drones and missiles at Ukraine in about a dozen mass attacks to destroy Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.
The Kremlin aims to deny Ukrainians heating, power and water during the winter so that they put pressure on their government to agree a ceasefire with Russia.
Ukrainian authorities say Moscow desperately needs a ceasefire in order to give some respite to its troops, who have been badly mauled in 10 months of fighting in Ukraine, and to give it time to train up fresh forces for renews aggression against Ukraine.