Russian MPs have been accused of setting up a remote reconnaissance unit far behind the front line so they and their military-age sons can serve in Ukraine without being killed.
The Kremlin has told politicians to back its invasion if they want to earn the respect of ordinary Russians.
Since then, Russian MPs have signed up to serve in the secretive Cascade unit, based somewhere in Donbas, for a month or so – guaranteeing useful photos of themselves in military uniform, and perhaps a medal.
VKCh-OGPU, an influential Russian blog channel that claims to have close ties to the country’s defence establishment, published lists of politicians from Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party who have served with Cascade.
“This is a ‘cronies detachment’ that includes deputies and their children who want to mark themselves down as having been in the war but don’t feel like going to the front line,” the channel reported on Telegram.
The son of Dmitri Sablin, the MP who founded the unit and currently leads it, has been pictured in Ukraine serving alongside its other members.