Russia Hires Priest to Teach Children to Fly Drones

( – A Russian school has hired a priest to teach its kids. That would make sense if he was there to teach them about Orthodox Christianity — but he isn’t. Instead, he’s going to show them how to fly military drones. The question is, why? Is President Vladimir Putin so desperate he’s planning to use child soldiers in Ukraine?

In early September, Igor Biryukov, a Russian Orthodox priest, told reporters that he’d been hired by a newly-opened school in Prochnookopskaya in the southwestern Krasnodar region. Krasnodar is separated from the Russian-occupied Crimea region of Ukraine by the nine-mile-wide Kerch Strait.

Biryukov said he’ll be teaching students how to fly drones and use them in combat. He claimed he’d also be teaching programming and 3D design. Deputy Defense Minister Ruslan Tsalikov said the teaching program will train students how to use drones for terrain reconnaissance, as well as the tactics used by enemy drone operators.

The announcement sparked fears that the Putin regime is considering using children to fill the gaps in its battered army. Since last February’s invasion, almost a million people have left Russia, some to avoid being drafted. That’s crippling the economy; it’s also left the military struggling to replace its casualties. It isn’t too hard to believe that Putin would send teenagers into combat to ease the growing manpower shortage.

On the other hand, teaching high school students military skills isn’t exactly new in Russia. Between the end of World War II and the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Soviet schoolchildren were taught basic infantry tactics and how to use the AK assault rifle. Meanwhile, the DOSAAF organization — “Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Navy” — offered teens and college students the chance to take part in “paramilitary sports,” including shooting, parachuting, and flying training.

DOSAAF survived the fall of the USSR but faded in importance. Then, this May, it was replaced by a new organization called Voin, which aims to give Russians aged between 14 and 35 combat training. The Krasnodar school’s drone-flying priest might seem strange and sinister to us, but to Russians, it’s a familiar idea.

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