Russian Drone Project «Archangel» in Occupied Crimea and Southern Ukraine


Russian project «Archangel» manufactures FPV-drones and trains Russian soldiers, «volunteers» from BARS squads and civilians willing to sign contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense. As Russian mass media reported, the network of «Archangel» includes training centers in 20 Russian cities and on occupied territories of Ukraine. Over one thousand drone operators have been trained for Russian «special military operation» by the middle of last year. Hundreds of drones have been manufactured per day.

The Center of Journalist Investigations discloses names of Russian citizens and Ukrainian collaborators who manage the project and contribute to the Russian war against Ukraine.

Russian volunteer project «Archangel» has been first mentioned by Russian mass media in October 2022. It has been small training initiative of Russian entrepreneur Mikhail Filippov in Ramenske village in Moscow region. Small center of drone operators was opened in Tver. Later the network suddenly «exploded»: four centers were launched by the end of December 2022 and twelve – by October 2023. Instructors of «Archangel» train everybody on the territory of Russia. But they focus only on Russian soldiers and volunteers joining BARS squads [squads of Russian reservists] in centers along the front line in Ukraine.

For example, currently they recruit volunteers who signed half a year contract of military service with so-called Russian «volunteer battalions named after Sudoplatov and Margelov». These «battalions» are de jure squads of BARS. They fight in Southern Ukraine.

One year contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense is proposed for volunteers who would like to join «battalion of special mining «Fenix». It seems that this first special battalion of drone-miners has been created on the basis of engineering brigade of Russian Southern Military District in October 2023.

Financial sources and support of the Russian Ministry of Defense

Video report of TV channel «Zverzda» [Star] of the Russian Ministry of Defense calls the network of «Archangel» as the largest in Russia. Project manager Mikhail Filippov has been photographed with Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Popov and other senior officials of the Ministry.

Project «Archangel» does not have the status of legal entity. Its financial support by the Ministry goes through the following channels.

The first channel uses regional offices of semi-governmental non-profit organization «DOSAAF Rossii» [Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation and Navy]. In December 2023, Russian Colonel General Kolmakov, the head of Russian DOSAAF, reported that almost four thousand drone operators have been trained by the network of DOSAAF. He was going to increase significantly the number of trainees and negotiate financial support from the Ministry of Defense.

The training program of drone operators takes two weeks. After graduation, students receive certificates from regional office of DOSAAF about «improving qualification» within this sphere.

Training center of «Archangel» in Melitopol. Photo: VK, 2023

Training centers of «Archangel» also work on the basis of regional offices of DOSAAF in occupied Crimea. We highlight the activity of its office in Yevpatoria below. We already disclosed the activity of Sevastopol office of DOSAAF when it received additional financial support of its courses «Young drone operator» from Putin’s Fund.

Other channels of financial support include military units of the Armed Forces of Russia on occupied territory of Ukraine («Archangel» established direct cooperation with them), funds of governors of subjects of the Russian Federation and Russian «heads» of occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions who support squads of BARS.

On January 15, 2024, social media of the project reported that training would be increased by two times in occupied Southern Ukraine. The 35th Russian Army actively joined the project. Its focus of training is not on drone operators but on already deployed units of 2-3 drone operators. After completion of training, «Archangel» will deliver drones as «our soldiers should have something in their hands to fight». The governor of Russian Amur region, where the 35th Army is headquartered, funded the premises and equipment for new training center of the 35th Army. 

«We solved the issue with the 35th Army in systemic way. One group of soldiers is trained in the classroom; another one is trained to assemble drones; some people learn how to mine; other people go to the training ground. We will conveyer belt. The same approach is applied to exams, the receipt of drones and advance to the front line. Now we have the task to do the same with the 58th Army», as writes representative of «Archangel» in his comment to video from new training center.

Mikhail Filippov, call sign «Archangel»

47 years old Mikhail Gennadievich Filippov calls himself the father-founder of «Archangel» project. He is registered in the Russian city of Litkarino in Moscow region (his detailed data can be found here).

Filippov has been general director and founder of company «ML Constructions» since 2011 until 2019, in accordance with the Russian State Register of Legal Entities. The company has repaired apartments and houses, mostly, in regions around Moscow. Despite liquidation of the company, website of the company and Filippov’s social media accounts have kept posting photos of completed contracts with contact data of Filippov as the manager.

At the same time, Filippov has cooperated with LLC «Kompania Otkrytoe nebo» [Company «Open Sky»], also registered in the Russian city of Litkarino. This company delivered services of air video and photo surveillance with the use of drones. That is how Filippov understood how drone technologies worked.

Mikhail Filippov, head of «Archangel» project. Photo: telegram, 2023

In accordance with Russian investigative project «Important stories», «Open Sky» has been co-founded and managed by Andrei Klimenko. He also managed construction company «Lan-Kom»  when it has been owned by Aleksandr Udodov, husband of sister of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. It is likely that Udodov has been single sponsor of «Archangel» at its start, as Filippov once told about history of his project.

«Open Sky» planned to launch project «Our people relaxing» in Crimea in May-October 2022. It was going to provide air video footage of Crimean beaches and resort events, in order to promote Crimean resort areas and attract visitors. The project has been abandoned, and Filippov launched training center for «operators of death».

«Crimean drones»

In May 2023, representatives of «Archangel» searched premises for their training center in Simferopol or Sevastopol. At the end of the day, they selected Yevpatoria when they met two local collaborators with call signs «Bomzh» [Homeless person] and «Barin» [Baron]. They used local project set up on the basis of local office of DOSAAF – military training courses «Veter» [Wind] and female drone operators «Krylja vetra» [Wings of wind]. The Center of Journalist Investigations highlighted their activity in its earlier reports.

The training center of «Archangel» in Yevpatoria has been called «Crimean Drone». Russian mass media reported that its supervisor has been the man with call sign «Yevpatoria». He has been always demonstrated with semi-hidden face. To our mind, Yevpatoria center has been managed by Simferopol resident Romanov Vitalii Mykhailovych, born in 1981 (his full date can be found here). How did we identify him?

Telegram chat of the project mentions account with nickname @Bomondos as an account of the supervisor of Crimean center of «Archangel». This nickname has been used by acting account of Romanov in X media (former Twitter). It has been also used by his old account in the online service for finding friends. He created it when he studied in the university in Egypt. It is sufficient to compare his two photos – with semi-hidden and opened face. 

Supervisor of Crimean center of «Archangel» with call sign «Yevpatoria» and Vitalii Romanov. Photo: screenshot of video «Krym 24» and Facebook account of Romanov

Romanov’s accounts in social media inform that his native city is Simferopol and that he has studied business administration in New York Technological University until 2003 and continued his studies in German University in Cairo.

In 2014, Vitalii Romanov registered LLC «Viktorius group» in occupied Simferopol under Russian jurisdiction (with very wide business profile – from translation services to construction works). In 2015, Roman has been active participant of propagandist events «Crimea is Russian land» in Moscow conducted to commemorate the anniversary of Russian occupation of Crimean peninsula.

Vitalii Romanov at the Moscow rally on anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea, 2015. Photo: Facebook

Since 2016 Romanov has been sales director of company Agrika International Inc., registered in USA, and its representative office in Moscow. The company imported frozen meat, fish and vegetables from US, Africa and Europe to Russia. By the way, name of Vitalii Romanov in Skype has been the same – Bomondos. All senior managers of would be «American» company Agrika have been Russian citizens. It might indicate that the company has been used as cover company by Russian intelligence services. After Russian full scale invasion into Ukraine in 2002 and international sanctions, the company has been liquidated. Vitalli Romanov came back to Crimea and drastically changed his activity.

Yevpatoria resident Putrenko Sergii Anatoliyovych with call sign «Barin» has been appointed as the director of «Crimean Drone» project. We covered his activity in our previous reports. He headed female unit «Wings of wind». Its representatives are among trainees of Crimean center of «Archangel». One trainee of «Fenix» is Russian woman who resided in Argentina and came back to kill Ukrainians.

Sergii Putrenko, head of drone school of «Archangel» in Yevpatoria, 2023. Photo: Telegram

Putrenko is the graduate of Russian High Engineering School of Rocket Troops in Krasnodar.

He has been general director of Ukrainian LLC «Chaika-M» registered in Ukrainian city of Genichesk. 90% of the statutory capital of this company was owned by Ukrainian LLC «Akkord-Finans», the branch of Austrian company Garda Handels und Beteiligungs. The latter was reported as an important asset of Mykola Azarov, ex-Prime-Minister under President Yanukovych who fled to Russia after the Revolution of Dignity.

As founder of «Archangel» Mikhail Filippov told, Putrenko-«Barin» rendered his hotel for training of drone operators and accommodation of trainees.

E-mail address of Putrenko led us to his hotel called «Villa Marita» and located in Zaozerne village near Yevpatoria. Its photos on the official website of the hotel coincide with video posted on telegram channel of «Archangel». We do not have doubts that «Villa Marita» hosts training center and shop for assembling fpv-drones. 

Hotel «Villa Marita» in Zaozerne village where training center «Archangel» is located

A man with call sign «Doctor» has been often presented by Russian propaganda media as one of instructors of Yevpatoria center of «Archangel». Russian propagandists told that he came from region around Moscow; he carried humanitarian aid to Donbas and realized that Russian troops lacked technical specialists at the front line. He has given interview in balaclava and laughed: «We are secret people».

We identified him. It is 40 years Russian citizen Yaroslavtsev Andrei Sergeevich (full data can be found here).

In accordance with the Russian State Register of Legal Entities, Yaroslavtsev has been founder and manager of Moscow IT company «Pervaya pomosh bisnesu» [First Aid to Business]. It was liquidated in 2020. We found his old photo on archived website of the company and compared with his current photos in social media.  

Andrei Yaroslavtsev, call sign «Doctor», instructor of Crimean training center «Archangel». Photo: and OK

A volunteer community Osint Bees found out last summer that Andrei Yaroslavtsev with call sign «Black Doctor» worked in occupied Melitopol within Russian group «Rokot» helping occupants to assemble drones and supplying necessary equipment.

«Archangel» and members of «battalion named after Sudoplatov»

Center of «Archangel» in Melitopol started training solders of squad BARS-32, known as «battalion named after Sudoplatov», in July 2023 on the basis of battalion. The battalion provided premises for training sessions, repairing shops, assembly of drones, equipped with 3D printers.

In February 2023, the battalion launched its own separate drone project «Sudoplatov. Judgment Day». After successful tests of kamikaze drones, the initiative of private developers has been directly supported by the Russian Ministry of Defense – from production to supply and use. FPV-drones are assembled in seven production places. The largest part are drones VT-40, named in honor of collaborator Vladlen Tatarsky who helped to promote drones among Russian senior officials before his death.

Russian TV channel showed an interview with «commander of special group of the Russian Ministry of Defense» about the project. «The commander» told that the Ministry provided any assistance to the project – from resources to cutting red tape.

«We produce one thousand drones per day. They are immediately supplied to the front line», as says «the commander». 

Factory manufacturing FPV-drones of project «Sudoplatov. Judgment Day»

We emphasize that «Sudoplatov. Judgment Day» is the separate project, fully implemented under the supervision of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Russian mass media call a soldier with call sign «Patriot» as the supervisor of «Archangel» training center in Melitopol. It is possible that he serves in the military unit «Storm V». The Russian propagandist video shows chevron of «Storm» on his right hand. 

Supervisor of «Archangel» center in Melitopol (left) gives chevrons of the center to trainees, 2023. Photo: Telegram

We have not yet identified «Patriot».  We found that he was born in Russian region of Birobidzhan. He visited this region during his vacation and met with teenagers and students of medical college. Official website of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation reported about his meeting with members of «Young Army», Russian analogue of Hitler-Jugend.

We identified one instructor and administrator of «Archangel» center in Melitopol. It is Surkov Pavel Aleksandrovich, call sign «Philosopher» (his full data can be found here).

Pavel Surkov, call sign «Philosopher», instructor of the center of «Archangel» in Melitopol. Photo: social media

Surkov is the former member of Russian Air Forces and participant of scandalous financial pyramid «Life is good». The pyramid has been active in Russian and Ukraine. Russian scammers opened their office in Kyiv in 2017 and extorted 40 million USD from Ukrainians. The State Security Service of Ukraine uncovered this scheme only last year.

Pavel Surkov in branded uniform of financial pyramid «Life is good», 2018. Photo: social media

In 2020, Surkov registered as individual entrepreneur. His business has been successful in the Russian public procurement. He won 2,6 million Rubles within two years by supplying metalware etc. One third of his successful bids came from Russian military units and the Russian Guard. In May 2023, he stopped his business activity and went to occupied territory of Zaporizhzhia region.

Recently, Filippov reported latest news about «Archangel» in occupied Southern Ukraine. The project staffs its own mobile drone groups. They will travel along front line on armored vehicles. As he says, 80 people will be recruited and trained in Melitopol. Surprisingly, his video with these reports disappeared from project telegram channel.

Policeman-traitor as the head of «battalion named after Sudoplatov»

While investigating «Archangel» project, we identified the commander of «battalion named after Sudoplatov», with call sign «Shaman». «Battalion» has been created upon the initiative of Yevhen Balytsky, the Russian «head» of occupied part of Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia region. At the very beginning of its existence, it has been legalized as «the state unitary enterprise» of the Russian occupation administration of Zaporizhzhia region in the Russian Register of Legal Entities. Now it is called BARS-32.

In February-June 2023, Pogrebnyak Dmytro Tymofiyovych has been its acting director (his Russian taxpayer’s code 910217849658 was issued by Russian tax inspection in occupied Simferopol, the capital of Crimea).

As the Center for Journalist Investigations revealed, Dmytro Pogrebnyak is the Ukrainian citizen (Ukrainian passport # ВК249020, Ukrainian taxpayer’s code 3258800991). He was born in Luhansk region on March 22, 1989. Before the Russian occupation of Luhansk region in 2014, he has served as the sergeant in Luhansk rapid operational response unit «Sokil» of the Department to Fight Organized Crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.

Video of Russian propagandist Solovyov demonstrated him without balaclava and named him as Dmytro, with call sign «Shaman». He told that he has been sent as the member of «Sokil» from Luhansk to Kyiv «to pacify» the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014.

«We were given weapons; we occupied hills and protected assault squads which withdrew from Maidan. We evacuated our wounded people», as told Pogrebnyak to propagandist Solovyov. It seems that he participated in covering so-called «black company of «Berkut». This company has been involved into mass shooting of protesters at Instytutska street in Kyiv.

According to Ukrainian military analyst Kostyantyn Mashovets, so-called «battalion named after Sudoplatov» (BARS-32) participated in the fighting near Vasylivka and Luhove village in 2023. BARS-32 is subordinated to the 58th Russian Army, fighting in Zaporizhzhia region.

Social media of Pogrebnyak’s wife – Khrystyna Taranova – demonstrate a lot of photos made after the Russian full scale invasion into Ukraine. As a rule, photos describe their vacations – at the seashore, yacht, in hotels and night clubs in Sochi and other Russian cities. It seems that direct participation of Pogrebnyak in the Russian war against Ukraine has not stopped his regular visits to Russian resorts.